WIkiLeaks founder Julian Assange's final bid to avoid US extradition in court

Web Desk
February 20, 2024

Assange is facing potential life imprisonment on espionage charges in US

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange makes a speech from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy, in central London, Britain February 5, 2016. —Reuters

In a crucial last-ditch effort, Julian Assange's legal team returned to London's High Court to fight against his extradition to the US, CNN reported.

The WikiLeaks founder, facing potential life imprisonment on espionage charges, has exhausted most legal avenues, with only two UK High Court judges standing between him and extradition.

The two-day hearing will determine whether Assange is granted leave to appeal the 2022 extradition decision made by former UK Home Secretary Priti Patel. If the court rules against him, extradition must occur within 28 days. Assange's legal team plans to seek intervention from the European Court of Human Rights through a Rule 39 order.

Wanted by US authorities on 18 criminal charges related to the dissemination of classified material, Assange's potential sentence could reach 175 years.

The convoluted journey began in 2010 with WikiLeaks publishing classified documents, leading Assange to seek asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy. However, in 2019, he was evicted and subsequently faced extradition requests from the US.

The current hearing focuses on Assange's extradition for political reasons, claiming a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Unwell and unable to attend, Assange's lawyer argued that he faces prosecution for ordinary journalistic practices of obtaining and publishing classified information in the public interest.

Assange's wife, Stella, expressed grave concerns about his situation, emphasising the lack of further appeal options if the hearing doesn't favour him. She highlighted his declining physical and mental health, citing a mini-stroke in 2021 and the challenges of prolonged isolation.

The controversial extradition has sparked global concerns about press freedom, with supporters and human rights groups warning of potential repercussions for journalism.

Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders stress the broader implications, stating that global media freedoms would be on trial if Assange is prosecuted under the US Espionage Act without a public interest defence.

As the court considers Assange's fate, the world watches closely, recognising the pivotal nature of this case for journalism, press freedom, and the protection of whistleblowers.


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