Julian Assange wins UK High Court victory in case against extradition to US

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange o. (IANS Photo)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange o. (IANS Photo)

London, May 20 (IANS): WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Monday won a victory in his ongoing battle against extradition from the United Kingdom (UK) to the United States after the High Court in London granted him permission to appeal.

Assange had been granted permission to appeal only if the U.S. government was unable to provide the court with suitable assurances that Assange is permitted to rely on the First Amendment (free speech) for protections, reports Xinhua News Agency.

The U.S. government had to assure that Assange, who is Australian, shall not be prejudiced at trial by reason of his nationality and is afforded the same protections as a U.S. citizen.

The U.S. side also had to provide assurance that Assange would not be sentenced to death if convicted.

Assange's legal team criticized the assurances provided by the U.S. government at the hearing, arguing that "based on the principle of the separation of powers, the U.S. court can and will apply U.S. law, whatever the executive may say or do."

Most of the assurances were "blatantly inadequate," said Edward Fitzgerald KC, representing Assange. But the legal team had accepted the promise about the death penalty.

The lawyer said in written submissions that while the assurance over the death penalty was "an unambiguous executive promise," the other assurance does not give "any reliable promise as to future action."

According to Assange's legal team, it could be months before the new appeal is heard.

The latest move came after the High Court deferred a decision in March on whether Assange could take his case to another appeal hearing.

Assange, 52, is wanted by the United States on allegations of disclosing national defense information following WikiLeaks's publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked military documents relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars a decade ago, which included an Apache helicopter video footage documenting the U.S. military gunning down journalists and children in Baghdad's streets in 2007.

He has been held at southeast London's high-security Belmarsh Prison since 2019. The UK approved his extradition to the United States in 2022 under then Home Secretary Priti Patel after a judge initially blocked it on Assange's mental health concerns. Assange and his lawyers have appealed since then.