WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange is “dangerously close” to being extradited to the United States where he will face the prospect of the rest of his life in prison for publishing leaked classified documents in 2010.
The warning was made by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in the wake of a UK High Court decision rejecting WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange’s appeal against his extradition order.
In a three-page written decision issued on 6 June, a single judge, Justice Swift, rejected all eight grounds of Assange’s appeal against the extradition order signed by then-UK Home Secretary Priti Patel in June 2022. This leaves only one final step in the UK courts, as the defence has five working days to submit an appeal of only 20 pages to a panel of two judges, who will convene a public hearing. Further appeals will not be possible at the domestic level, but Assange could bring a case to the European Court of Human Rights.
RSF’s Director of Campaigns Rebecca Vincent said, “It is absurd that a single judge can issue a three-page decision that could land Julian Assange in prison for the rest of his life and permanently impact the climate for journalism around the world.
“The historical weight of what happens next cannot be overstated; it is time to put a stop to this relentless targeting of Assange and act instead to protect journalism and press freedom.
“Our call on President Biden is now more urgent than ever: drop these charges, close the case against Assange, and allow for his release without further delay.”
Stella Assange, Julian’s wife, made a statement on Twitter: “…we remain optimistic that we will prevail and that Julian will not be extradited to the United States where he faces charges that could result in him spending the rest of his life in a maximum security prison for publishing true information that revealed war crimes committed by the US government.”
This is the latest stage in more than three years of legal proceedings in UK courts, as the US government has made its case to extradite Assange in order to try him on 18 counts in connection with WikiLeaks’ publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked classified documents that informed public interest reporting around the world.
Although the first instance court ruled against extradition on mental health grounds, the Court of Appeals overturned the decision in consideration of diplomatic assurances presented by the US government.
Assange would be the first publisher prosecuted under the Espionage Act, which lacks a public interest defence. He faces a combined total sentence of a possible 175 years in prison.
RSF is the only NGO to have monitored the entire extradition proceedings despite extensive barriers to observation. `
In April 2023, RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire and Director of Campaigns Rebecca Vincent were arbitrarily barred access to visit Assange in Belmarsh prison, where he has been held on remand for more than four years.
RSF said it continues to seek access to the prison and to campaign globally for Assange’s release.