The UK Supreme Court has allowed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to seek a hearing on an appeal against his extradition to the United States.
It’s the first stage in the process as the Supreme Court will still need to decide if it will hear the appeal of a UK High Court ruling in December 2021 that decided the United States could extradite Assange.
On December 10 – Human Rights Day – the High Court reversed a lower court decision in January 2021 after an appeal by the U.S. in which it promised to reduce the risk of suicide. The lower court had ruled against extradition due to concerns about Assange’s mental health.
Assange is wanted in the U.S. over the publication of thousands of classified documents by WikiLeaks in 2010 and 2011.
AEJ media freedom representative William Horsley described “the prospect of Julian Assange being extradited to the US and condemned to fester in jail, possibly for the rest of his life, should appal everyone who believes in free speech and accountable government.”
Amnesty International called the court decision a “travesty of justice” and said it posed a grave threat to media freedom.
Horsley noted that “whatever anyone may think of Assange as an individual, the key fact is this. His disclosure of the Afghan and Iraq War Logs exposed to public view war crimes which otherwise might have been covered up for ever. If the American justice system is successful in punishing him like a terrorist for telling embarrassing truths, it will act as a severe deterrent to others.”
The High Court judges ruled that the lower court had based its January decision on the risk of Assange being held in highly restrictive prison conditions if extradited. They said that risk was excluded by U.S. assurances that Assange would not face those strict measures unless he committed an act in the future that required them.
Assange sought refuge in Ecuador’s London embassy for seven years from 2012 until he was re-arrested in 2019 for breaching his bail conditions. That arrest had far-reaching implications for press freedom, the public’s right to know, and public trust in journalism noted the AEJ’s media freedom representative and UK chairman William Horsley at the time.
Assange has been held in the UK’s Belmarsh prison ever since.
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High Court judgment
Amnesty International reaction
Reporters Without Borders reaction
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