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Julian Assange: Wikileaks founder can challenge US extradition

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  • Author, Dominique Casciani
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Wikileaks founder Julian Assange can appeal his extradition to the United States, the High Court has ruled.

He was allowed to appeal the order that he be sent to the United States to stand trial for disclosing military secrets.

The decision means Mr Assange will be able to challenge US assurances about how his possible trial would proceed and whether his right to free speech would be violated.

The 52-year-old’s lawyers hugged each other in court after the latest ruling in the legal saga.

They argued that the charges against him — linked to the release of highly classified documents nearly 15 years ago about alleged U.S. war crimes — were politically motivated.

The United States argues that the Wikileaks files – which leaked information about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – put lives at risk.

In a brief ruling Monday morning, two senior judges granted him permission to appeal an earlier order allowing his extradition to the United States. They decided he should appeal his decision in the UK.

Mr Assange resisted extradition from the UK for more than a decade, after his Wikileaks website published the confidential US documents in 2010 and 2011.

Mr Assange, currently incarcerated at Belmarsh Prison, will now have several months to prepare his appeal, which will focus on whether or not US courts will protect his right to freedom of expression as an Australian citizen.

Hundreds of people gathered outside the court before the ruling, and Mr. Assange’s supporters applauded when news of the decision leaked out.

This means he will remain in the UK for the time being.

Had the court ruled in favor of the US, Mr Assange would have exhausted all legal avenues in the UK.


Speaking at the Royal Court of Justice after the ruling, Ms Assange welcomed the ruling and called it a “watershed”.

She called on the United States to “abandon this shameful attack on journalists, on the press and the public, which has lasted for 14 years.”

The U.S. Department of Justice described the leak as “one of the largest compromises of classified information in U.S. history.”

Leaked files suggest the US military killed civilians in unreported incidents during the war in Afghanistan.

US authorities say Mr Assange put lives at risk by failing to redact the names of intelligence officers in documents. They also say he is not being prosecuted for any of the revelations he says reveal war crimes.

Mr. Assange’s legal team argued that the case was a form of politically motivated “state retaliation.”

“He literally denounced war crimes,” Ms Assange told BBC Radio 4’s Today program on Monday.

“This case is this country’s revenge against openness and accountability.”

Legend, Stella Assange, wife of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, outside the High Court after the judgment

At a hearing in March, the US government was granted additional time to ensure that Mr. Assange would not be sentenced to death in the United States for two other reasons:

  • that Mr Assange could rely on the First Amendment of the US Constitution – which protects freedom of expression
  • that his Australian nationality would not count against him

Last month, the justices confirmed that the United States had provided assurances to the court.

Mr. Assange and his legal team accept assurances that he will not face the death penalty if charged with other offenses.

Earlier on Monday, James Lewis KC, representing the US government, said in written submissions to the court that there was “no doubt” that Mr Assange would be “entitled to the full range of due process rights”. – including defense of the First Amendment. – if he is extradited.

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