Julian Assange has filed an appeal against the UK home secretary’s decision to extradite him to the US to face hacking and espionage charges.
The appeal comes two weeks after Priti Patel signed an order to extradite the co-founder of WikiLeaks to the US.
The 50-year-old faces a maximum sentence of 175 years after being charged with 17 counts under the US Espionage Act for receiving and publishing classified government documents, and one count under the Computer Fraud and Misuse Act.
Assange has been held in Belmarsh high security prison since 2019 after being forcibly removed from the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
Assange’s legal team are expected to seek leave to re-open arguments that were originally rejected by the chief magistrate, Vanessa Baraitser, during Assange’s trial at Westminster Magistrates Court in 2001.
Questions over ‘political’ charges
Any appeal is expected to raise questions over the political nature of the charges against Assange, which centre on WikiLeaks’ publication of hundreds of thousands of documents leaked by former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in 2010 and 2011.
The documents revealed evidence of war crimes, torture and civilian deaths during the Iran and Iraq wars, and the role of the US in rendering terrorist suspects to “black sites” for torture and interrogation of detainees.
Assange is also likely to argue that the passage of time since the alleged offences were committed, and his indictment on espionage charges nine years later, make it impossible to mount a proper legal defence, because he no longer has access to records and documents from that period.
His lawyers have previously argued that Assange, who will be tried in the Eastern District of Virginia, is unlikely to face a fair trial in an area where many potential jurors are likely to have links to the US intelligence agencies or the defence industry.
Assange is likely to argue that he will face pressure to accept a “coercive plea bargain” from prosecutors who will offer a lower sentence in return for a guilty plea and may threaten harsh penalties if Assange opts for a trial and loses the case.
Another issue in the appeal is likely to be the impact of extradition on Assange’s family, including his young children if their father is sent to the US.
The case represents the first time that the US Espionage Act, originally enacted to prosecute spies during the First World War, has been used to bring charges against an individual for receiving and publishing classified information.
It has led to calls from journalists, doctors, MPs and civil society groups to end a case that is likely to have damaging repercussions for journalists and whistleblowers who leak or receive government documents.
London’s High Court ruled that Assange could be extradited to the US in December 2021 after judges accepted diplomatic assurances from the US that that it would take steps to mitigate Assange’s risk of suicide in a US prison.
The decision reversed a ruling by district judge Vanessa Baraitser, who found that Assange had mental health conditions that would put him at risk in the harsh conditions he would face in US prisons.
Lord Chief Justice Ian Duncan Burnet said he was satisfied that the US assurances excluded the possibility of Assange being made subject to special administrative measures (SAMs) or held at the ADX facility – a maximum-security prison in Florence, Colorado.
The US also gave undertakings that it would consent to an application by Assange to be transferred to Australia to serve his sentence, if convicted.
It said Assange would receive “appropriate clinical and psychological treatment as recommended by a qualified treating physician” in a US prison.
The assurances applied either pre-trial or after any conviction, unless Assange “committed any act in future” which rendered him liable to detention in those conditions.
Assange’s wife, Stella Moris, said in a statement on 22 June that no journalist would want to risk what Assange has been through.
“What has long been understood to be a bedrock principle of democracy – press freedom – will disappear in one fell swoop,” she said.
Celebrities including investigative journalist John Pilger and singer Dave Rovics, and relatives of Assange, joined a red London bus on Friday to protest about the extradition.
Read more about Julian Assange's extradition case
- Lawyers for Julian Assange say the US has introduced an 11th hour indictment against the WikiLeaks founder that provides additional grounds for his extradition.
- On the second day of his extradition hearing at the Old Bailey, judge informs the WikiLeaks founder he could be removed and potentially banned from court for interrupting witnesses.
- US journalism historian and investigative journalist Mark Feldstein tells a UK court that use of the Espionage Act against Assange will have wide implications for the press.
- Trevor Timm, co-founder of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, tells a court that if the US prosecutes Julian Assange, every reporter who receives a secret document will be criminalised.
- WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will be held under special administrative measures if extradited to the US, said Eric Lewis, a US legal expert, effectively placing him in solitary confinement.
- MEPs and NGOs say they have been denied access to observe extradition proceedings against WikiLeaks founder in Central Criminal Court.
- WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange held back 15,000 documents from publication at the request of the US government, a court heard today.
- Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked highly classified documents that changed the course of the Vietnam War in the 1970s, says WikiLeaks exposed a serious pattern of US war crimes.
- WikiLeaks and its media partners used software developed by an independent non-government organisation (NGO) to redact information that could identify individuals from 400,000 classified documents on the Iraq war, a court heard today.
- New Zealand investigative journalist and author Nicky Hager said that WikiLeaks’ publication of a video showing a US helicopter firing on civilians, along with the publication of secret war logs, ‘electrified’ the world to civilian deaths.
- WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was offered a “win-win” deal that would allow him “to get on with his life” and benefit US president Donald Trump.
- Khalid El-Masri said that disclosures by WikiLeaks showed that the US had intervened in a German judicial investigation into his torture and kidnapping by the CIA.
- Trump supporter Cassandra Fairbanks was given advanced details of US plans to oust Wikileaks founder Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian Embassy and to arrest him for over documents leaked by former soldier Chelsea Manning.
- WikiLeaks published unredacted cables after password was disclosed in book by Guardian journalist David Leigh.
- Julian Assange is on the autistic spectrum and has a history of depression that would put him at risk of suicide if he is extradited to a US prison.
- Nigel Blackwood, NHS consultant psychiatrist, told the Old Bailey court that although WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had ‘moderate depression’ and autistic traits it was ‘not unjust’ extradite him.
- Forensic expert questions US claims that Julian Assange conspired to crack military password.
- WikiLeaks founder would be held in a cell the size of a parking space for 22 or 23 hours a day without contact with other inmates before trial.
- WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange would be held alongside convicted terrorist Abu Hamza in a supermax federal prison in Colorado, isolated from other prisoners, if he is extradited to the US, Old Bailey told.
- Two former employees of UC Global, which provides security services to the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, claim the company shared surveillance footage with the US of the WikiLeaks founder meeting with lawyers and other visitors.
- WikiLeaks disclosures led to ‘revelations of extraordinary journalistic importance’ about detention in Guantamo Bay and civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan.
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