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UK High Court to Deliver Verdict on Assange's Extradition Appeal

Published March 25, 2024
2 months ago

The impending verdict from a UK court, expected on Tuesday, will determine if WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can launch a final legal challenge to prevent his extradition to the United States. Assange, 52, faces espionage charges and a possible lengthy imprisonment if extradited, following WikiLeaks' release of classified US documents concerning the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Last month, Assange's legal situation reached a critical point as senior High Court judges in London deliberated over the course of two days whether to allow Assange a fresh appeal in his fight against extradition. Representing both Assange and the US government, lawyers made their cases, but notably, Assange was absent due to illness and thus, did not participate in the proceedings through video link, according to his attorney.

With multiple indictments issued by Washington against the Australian national since 2018, Assange has been entrenched in a legal battle over half a decade in a bid to avoid extradition. The indictments are the consequence of WikiLeaks' publishing hundreds of thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents, shedding light on the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

During the February hearings, Assange's legal team argued that the US charges are inherently political, asserting that Assange is facing prosecution for engaging in standard journalistic practices—namely, the obtaining and publishing classified information. Furthermore, they suggested that the lengthy imprisonment he faces is "disproportionate" and called out the US for purported "bad faith," critiquing its actions as contrary to the extradition treaty with the UK.

US government attorneys, however, have asked judges to dismiss Assange's arguments. Meanwhile, the pressure has mounted on US President Joe Biden, both domestically and internationally, to retract the 18-count indictment against Assange that sits with a Virginia federal court—a charge established under the Trump administration.

This case is a landmark for press freedom, with major media entities, freedom of the press advocates, and the Australian parliament denouncing the application of the 1917 Espionage Act. The Act has never before been invoked for the publication of classified information, sparking debate and controversy over its implications for journalism and public interest reporting.

The outcome of Tuesday's ruling, set for 10:30 GMT, is crucial. If it concludes against Assange, his extradition to the US could proceed within a matter of weeks, setting a significant precedent for the relationship between government transparency, journalism, and the law.

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