UK High Court grants Julian Assange opportunity to appeal extradition

Julian Assange was granted another opportunity to appeal his extradition to the US after the UK High Court found US assurances of a fair trial inadequate

May 20, 2024 by Ana Vračar
Source: Official International Campaign to free Julian Assange

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been granted another opportunity to appeal his extradition to the United States by the UK High Court on Monday, May 20. This decision allows Assange and his legal team to contest US extradition efforts in court once again, with a new date yet to be set.

Today’s decision also offers a glimmer of hope in a case that could see Assange prosecuted on espionage charges and potentially sentenced to over 170 years in prison in the US.

The ruling was met with hope from Assange’s supporters outside the court, as well as relief from family members and organizations who have been advocating for an end to his persecution since WikiLeaks published thousands of documents exposing US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. The campaign for his release has intensified since his imprisonment in Belmarsh prison five years ago.

Read more: Julian Assange’s extradition appeal hangs in the balance as UK court seeks US “assurances”

Following the ruling, Assange’s supporters reiterated calls for the US to drop the case entirely, allowing him to go free. “In trying to imprison him, the US is sending the unambiguous message that they have no respect for freedom of expression, and that they wish to send a warning to journalists and publishers everywhere: that they too could be targeted, for receiving and publishing classified material — even if doing so is in the public interest,” said Simon Crowther, legal adviser at Amnesty International.

Caitlin Vogus, deputy director of advocacy at Freedom of the Press Foundation, also urged the court to refuse to extradite Assange. “But better yet, the Biden administration can and should end this case now. If Biden continues to pursue the Assange prosecution, he risks creating a precedent that could be used against any reporter who exposes government secrets, even if they reveal official crimes. If the Biden administration cares about press freedom, it must drop the Assange case immediately,” Vogus said.

The High Court ruling follows a deferral from March this year, when the British judiciary sought assurances from the US that Assange would receive a fair trial if extradited. Specifically, Assange’s legal team demanded guarantees that he would be granted First Amendment rights to free speech, be treated equally in court despite being an Australian national, and that the prosecution would not seek the death penalty.

In response, the US legal team provided a list of assurances, but today, the UK court found them unsatisfactory. Apart from the assurance that the death penalty would not be pursued, Assange’s current and former legal representatives described the US explanations as inconclusive, raising concerns that he would face cruel treatment if deported.