Julian Assange receives legal blow as he fights extradition to US : NPR


WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange greets supporters from a balcony at the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2017. Britain’s highest court on Monday denied WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange leave to appeal the decision to extradite him to the United States to face espionage charges.

Frank Augstein/AP


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Julian Assange receives legal blow as he fights extradition to US : NPR

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange greets supporters from a balcony at the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2017. Britain’s highest court on Monday denied WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange leave to appeal the decision to extradite him to the United States to face espionage charges.

Frank Augstein/AP

LONDON — Britain’s top court on Monday denied WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange leave to appeal the decision to extradite him to the United States to face espionage charges.

The court said it declined because the case “did not raise an arguable point of law”.

Assange, 50, has for years sought to avoid a trial in the United States on a series of charges related to WikiLeaks’ release of a huge trove of classified documents more than a decade ago.

The case is now expected to be officially sent to UK Home Secretary Priti Patel, who will decide whether to grant the extradition.

A British district court judge initially rejected a US extradition request on the grounds that Assange was likely to commit suicide if held in harsh US detention conditions. US authorities later assured that the WikiLeaks founder would not undergo the harsh treatment which his lawyers say would put his physical and mental health at risk.

In December, the High Court overturned the lower court’s decision, saying the US pledges were sufficient to ensure Assange would be treated humanely.

Monday’s news narrows Assange’s options, but his defense team could still seek to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights. Nick Vamos, the former head of extradition at the Crown Prosecution Service, said Assange’s lawyers may also seek to challenge other points he lost in the district court’s original ruling.

Barry Pollack, Assange’s US-based lawyer, said on Monday it was “extremely disappointing” that Britain’s Supreme Court was unwilling to hear the appeal.

“Mr. Assange will pursue legal proceedings against his extradition to the United States to face criminal charges for publishing truthful and newsworthy information,” he said.

Assange’s British lawyers, Birnberg Peirce Solicitors, said they could make submissions to the Home Secretary within the next four weeks before she makes a decision.

US prosecutors allege Assange illegally helped US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal diplomatic cables and classified military files which WikiLeaks later released, putting lives at risk.

But Assange’s supporters and lawyers argue he was acting as a journalist and is entitled to First Amendment free speech protections for publishing material that exposed US military wrongdoing. in Iraq and Afghanistan. They argue that his case is politically motivated.

If convicted, Assange’s lawyers say he could face up to 175 years in prison in the United States, although US authorities have said the sentence is likely to be much less than that.

Assange has been held in Britain’s high-security Belmarsh prison in London since 2019, when he was arrested for skipping bail in a separate legal battle. Prior to that, he spent seven years inside Ecuador’s embassy in London to avoid being extradited to Sweden to face allegations of rape and sexual assault.

Sweden dropped sex crime investigations in November 2019 because so much time had passed.

Assange’s partner Stella Moris, who has two young children with him, said on Sunday they were allowed to marry in prison later this month.


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