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Julian Assange wins extradition appeal in London High Court

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Photo: Dani Ber / Shutterstock.com

London’s High Court has ruled in favour of Julian Assange, granting him the right to appeal against his extradition to the United States. The court’s decision comes after Assange’s legal team argued against accepting assurances from US prosecutors regarding his rights under the US First Amendment.

The ruling was celebrated by Assange’s supporters, who gathered outside the court in the British capital. The judges, Victoria Sharp and Jeremy Johnson acknowledged the insufficiency of the US submissions, particularly concerning freedom of speech and Assange’s nationality as an Australian-born foreign national.

The judge’s ruling now clears the path for a comprehensive appeal process centred on the critical issues of freedom of speech and the possibility of discrimination based on Assange’s nationality. Nonetheless, a specific date for the upcoming hearing has not been established.

“The real issue is whether an adequate assurance has been provided to remove the real risk identified by the court,” argued Edward Fitzgerald, Assange’s lawyer. “It is submitted that no adequate assurance has been made.”

Assange, 52, is the creator of WikiLeaks and is charged with espionage by the United States authorities regarding the release of classified documents and diplomatic cables between 2010 and 2011. A conviction could result in a lifetime sentence.

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Assange was granted political asylum by the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012 but withdrew it in 2019.

In March, the London court had postponed its decision on extradition to seek assurances on First Amendment protections and the death penalty. The US government clarified that it would not seek the death penalty if Assange is extradited, as stated in documents submitted to the High Court.

WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief Kristinn Harfnsson criticised the judicial process as “rigged” and labelled Assange as a “political prisoner,” underscoring the controversial nature of Assange’s case, which has drawn international attention and raised concerns about press freedom and whistleblower protection.

As per the United States indictment, Assange encouraged sources to circumvent legal safeguards on information and provide that information to WikiLeaks. Moreover, Assange continued this pattern of illegal information procurement, and hence, it cannot be termed as traditional journalism.

If extradited, this could set a dangerous precedent for press freedom. Assange spent five years in Belmarsh prison and seven years before that in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

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Kumar Hemant

Deputy Editor at Candid.Technology. Hemant writes at the intersection of tech and culture and has a keen interest in science, social issues and international relations. You can contact him here: kumarhemant@pm.me

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