The High Court of the United Kingdom will decide on Monday whether Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, may take his struggle against extradition to the United Kingdom. The Supreme Court of the United States.
The move is the latest in Assange’s protracted fight to prevent extradition to the United States on espionage accusations stemming from WikiLeaks’ publishing of sensitive information more than a decade ago.
A district court judge in London rejected a US extradition request little over a year ago, claiming that Assange would kill himself if kept in harsh US prison circumstances.
Later, US officials assured the WikiLeaks founder that he would not be subjected to the stringent conditions that his attorneys claimed would jeopardize his physical and mental health.
The verdict of the lower court was reversed by the High Court last month. Justices Ian Burnett and Timothy Holroyd of the High Court ruled the American pledges were sufficient to ensure Assange would be handled humanely.
They described the US assurances as “solemn undertakings, provided by one government to another, that will bind all authorities and prosecutors dealing with the relevant parts of Mr. Assange’s case now and in the future.”
Assange’s attorneys claim that those guarantees are untrustworthy, and they have asked for permission to appeal to the UK’s highest court. They say that the US government’s assurance that Assange will not be exposed to harsh circumstances is hollow since it is conditional and open to alter at the whim of American authorities.
The appeal is unlikely to be granted, according to Nick Vamos, a partner at Peters & Peters lawyers in London and a former head of extradition at the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service. Only if the High Court determines that there are grounds of “general public concern” to examine may Assange take the case to the Supreme Court.
Even if the judges of the High Court reject that claim, the long-running legal process is unlikely to finish very soon. Other avenues of appeal against the extradition ruling remain open to Assange.
Since 2019, when he was detained for jumping bail during a separate court struggle, Assange, 50, has been incarcerated at the high-security Belmarsh Prison in London. He had been shut up within Ecuador’s embassy in London for seven years before that. At 2012, Assange took refuge in the embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he was accused of rape and sexual assault.
Because so much time has passed, Sweden decided to end its sex crimes inquiry in November 2019.
According to American authorities, Assange illegally assisted Chelsea Manning, a U.S. Army intelligence analyst, in stealing sensitive diplomatic cables and military data, which WikiLeaks eventually released, endangering lives.
Assange’s lawyers say that their client should not have been prosecuted because he was functioning as a journalist, which is protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, which protects press freedom. They claim the materials he released uncovered misbehavior by the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan.