The UK High Court today ruled that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange can be extradited to the United States, overturning a lower court decision in January that refused the extradition request due to concerns about his mental health.
Speaking immediately after the ruling was announced, Assange’s fiancee Stella Moris said, “we will appeal this decision at the earliest possible moment”. She described the high court’s ruling as “dangerous and misguided” and a “grave miscarriage of justice”.
Assange’s solicitors also issued a statement, saying they will be seeking permission to appeal this decision to the Supreme Court. The application for appeal will have to be filed within 14 days, they said.
Statement by Julian #Assange‘s solicitors following the High Court’s decision.
— Stella Moris #FreeAssangeNOW (@StellaMoris1) December 10, 2021
Assange’s solicitors said the decision of the High Court rejected three grounds of appeal argued by the US, but allowed part of the appeal which provides “assurances” – any appeal to the Supreme Court would be based on this aspect of the case, they said.
Other issues, including questions of free speech and the alleged political motivation of the US extradition request, have not yet been decided by an appeal court, the solicitors said.
The case began on 27 October when the US asked the High Court to overturn a judge’s decision that Assange should not be extradited to face charges of espionage and up to 175 years in prison.
In January of 2021, a lower court refused the US government’s request to extradite him due to concerns over his mental health. Judge Vanessa Baraitser said there was a risk he would kill himself if held in hard US prison conditions.
The US government’s lawyer, James Lewis had argued that the judge was wrong when she ruled he could commit suicide. He said the authorities in the States pledged he would not be held in an infamous “Supermax” prison, or put into isolation.
This contradicted the statements from medical professionals and a United Nations expert on torture who visited him in a British prison in 2019, who said they’d observed an alarming deterioration in his mental and physical state including “extreme stress, chronic anxiety, and intense psychological trauma”.
Rebecca Vincent, UK Bureau Director at Reporters Without Borders who has been monitoring the trial for its duration, said the decision “marks a bleak moment for journalists and journalism around the world… Assange should be immediately released”.
“The case of Julian Assange has to be seen for what it is,” Vincent said in a BBC interview. “It’s a political case and he has been targeted for publishing information in the public interest, which should not be a crime in the US or anywhere”.
RSF director of international campaigns Rebecca Vincent said the decision “marks a bleak moment for journalists and journalism around the world… Assange should be immediately released”https://t.co/PWg6XQZ7gK
— Press Gazette (@pressgazette) December 10, 2021
Amnesty International Australia called the decision “a travesty of justice” and said that “by allowing this appeal, the High Court has chosen to accept the deeply flawed diplomatic assurances given by the US that Assange would not be held in solitary confinement in a maximum security prison”.
This is a travesty of justice. By allowing this appeal, the High Court has chosen to accept the deeply flawed diplomatic assurances given by the US that #Assange would not be held in solitary confinement in a maximum security prison https://t.co/mmUK9ZoHOO
— Amnesty International Australia ? (@amnestyOz) December 10, 2021
The charges against Assange relate to the publication of hundreds of thousands of US military reports between 2010 and 2011 on the WikiLeaks site. The leak was embarrassing for the US government as it included damning evidence of US attacks on civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as internal diplomatic cables.
The US filed 17 charges against him including conspiracy to hack US databases and publication of sensitive information.
In September, Sigurdur Ingi Thoradarson, a convicted paedophile and fraudster and also the US government main witness, admitted to lying in his testimony. He also suggested he had done so to protect himself from being convicted for other crimes.
Just weeks later, it emerged that the CIA had allegedly planned to harm, or even kill Assange and some of his associates.
One of the tens of whistleblowers alleged there were several scenarios planned to deal with Assange. they included spying and escalated to abduction and murder. They also said that the CIA plans may have included influencing the prosecution in the ongoing case against him.
One of the whistleblowers is quoted as saying, “there seemed to be no boundaries” regarding what the CIA would do.