UK High Court allows Julian Assange to continue appealing extradition to US

Written by on May 20, 2024

Stella Assange, wife of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, delivers a speech in front of the Home Office as protesters gather to Demand Julian Assange’s Immediate release on May 17, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

(LONDON) — The U.K.’s High Court on Monday said Julian Assange can continue appealing his extradition to the United States, putting up the latest roadblock in America’s years long effort to prosecute the WikiLeaks founder on charges of espionage.

Assange is accused by the United States of conspiring with Chelsea Manning, who, as an intelligence analyst in the U.S. Army, leaked to Assange hundreds of thousands of classified documents, including about 250,000 U.S. Department of State cables. WikiLeaks began publishing those documents in 2010.

The U.S. Department of Justice unsealed in 2019 an 18-count indictment accusing Assange of violating the Espionage Act by allegedly obtaining, receiving and disclosing classified information. A superseding indictment issued in 2020 added allegations that Assange had conspired with the Anonymous hacking group.

The U.K. court in March of this year said an extradition could go ahead if the U.S. was able to provide sufficient assurances that Assange’s case would be considered under the full protections of the First Amendment and that he would not be subjected to the death penalty.

The U.S. Embassy in London reportedly sent assurances — including that Assange would not face the death penalty — to the United Kingdom in April.

Assange has been held for the last five years in Belmarsh Prison, a high-security facility in southeastern London. Stella Assange, a longtime partner, married Assange in 2022.

“Whatever the High Court decides today, please keep fighting for Julian until he is free,” Stella Assange said on Monday.

Anthony Albanese, the prime minister of Australia, Assange’s home country, has also called for the U.S. to drop its extradition request. “Enough is enough,” he said last month.

The Committee to Protect Journalists called last week for the U.S. government to drop the extradition request. Sending Assange across the Atlantic “would allow for the prosecution of journalists who are simply doing their jobs and covering matters of public interest,” the organization said in an open letter dated May 17.

Officials with the White House and the State Department have both declined to discuss the potential extradition. Reporters asked U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller about the possible extradition during at least two separate press briefings in April.

Miller said each time that he’d defer to the Department of Justice on specifics of the possible extradition, but also said during one of the briefings that the U.S. considers the allegations against Assange to be outside the realm of “legitimate journalistic practice.” Assange is accused of “helping [Manning] actually break into government systems to retrieve classified information,” Miller said.

A group of European Parliament members on Friday published an open letter asking U.K. Home Secretary James Cleverly to put an end to the extradition.

“As elected representatives who have followed this case closely it is our view that there is no legitimate reason to the continued persecution of Mr. Assange and that he should be allowed to be united with his family,” the 31 members wrote in their letter.

ABC News’ Patrick Reevell contributed to this report.

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