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Judges to decide whether Assange can appeal against extradition as he reaches 1,000 days in jail

Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador urges US to treat WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange with humanity and to consider Mexico’s offer to grant Assange asylum

High Court judges are expected to decide within weeks whether to grant WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange leave to appeal to the UK Supreme Court against a decision allowing his extradition to the US.

Ian Duncan Burnett, who is the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, and Lord Justice Holroyd are expected to decide whether to grant Assange leave to appeal extradition before the end of January.

The 50 year old today marked his 1,000th day in Belmarsh high security prison in South East London fighting extradition, and faces a maximum of 175 years in jail in the US if the extradition goes ahead – though prosecutors argue that jail time is likely to be lower.

Assange has been charged with 17 counts under the US Espionage Act 1917 for receiving and publishing classified government documents, and one count under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Assange’s defence lawyers and press organisations argue that the case would set a precedent that would have a chilling effect on the freedom of the press if Assange is extradited, exposing journalists to the threat of extradition for publishing government documents.

US 'abused extradition treaty'

In a statement today, Stella Moris, Assange’s fiancée and mother of his two young children, said that Assange had spent longer in Belmarsh than many prisoners sentenced for violent crimes. She added that the US government had abused the US-UK extradition treaty for political ends.

Assange faces the prospect of imprisonment in the US under conditions of “total isolation” for publishing information about “victims and crimes committed by the US in Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan and Iraq”.

Moris said that Assange had suffered a stress-induced stroke during a court hearing in October. “His lawyers have complained about the limited access they have to their client, which has undermined his defence. His requests to attend his own hearings have been refused. When he has been permitted to attend, his requests to sit next to his lawyers have also been refused,” she added.

Mexico offers asylum

Her comments follow calls from the president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, yesterday urging the US government to treat Assange with humanity.

López Obrador repeated an offer to give Assange asylum in Mexico, where he said Assange would be prevented from intervening in foreign affairs as a condition of asylum. 

“Assange does not represent any danger in Mexico,” he told a press conference. “We believe that the US government must act humanely. Assange is ill and it would be a show of solidarity, of fraternity, to allow him to receive asylum in the country that Assange decided to live in, including Mexico,” he said in remarks reported in Venezuela’s Noticia al Dia.

The Mexican president revealed that he had written to Trump at the end of his US presidency asking him to pardon Assange, but had received no reply.

Moris said that CIA director Mike Pompeo had ordered the agency to develop plans to kidnap and render Assange to the US. “Indefinite incarceration will kill Assange unless it is finally and decisively brought to an end,” she said.

Details of the extent of the CIA’s operations against Assange were disclosed by former US intelligence and government officials in an investigation by Yahoo news.

The allegations against Assange centre on hundreds of thousands of documents leaked to WikiLeaks by former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in 2010 and 2011.

Supreme Court

The High Court ruled in December that Assange can be extradited to face hacking and espionage charges in the US after accepting diplomatic assurances from the US that it would take measures to mitigate Assange’s risk of suicide.

Assange applied to the High Court for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court two days before Christmas. His solicitors, Birnberg Peirce, said in a statement that the application raised important issues of law.

“We believe serious and important issues of law and wider public importance are being raised in this application. They arise from the court’s judgment and its receipt and reliance on US assurances regarding the prison regimes and treatment Mr Assange is likely to face if extradited,” the firm said.

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