Assange’s ordeal continues as UK court delays verdict

Aqra dan l-artiklu bil-Malti.

Julian Assange will have to wait until March, or longer, for a verdict on his extradition to the US, following the British high court’s decision to take time to consider a verdict as the second day of hearings regarding his future drew to a close.

Two judges from the high court said they would take time to consider the outcome of the case and whether to grant a new appeal to the whistleblower, as requested by Assange’s lawyers.

Assange has been indicted on 17 charges of espionage and one charge of misusing a computer after his website, WikiLeaks, published tranches of sensitive US Army intelligence documents.

During the two-day hearing, a lawyer representing the US government, Clair Dobbin, said Assange had damaged US security and intelligence services, creating a “grave and imminent risk” that could lead to the endangerment of innocent people living in war zones or under repressive regimes.

Meanwhile, Assange’s lawyers said that his extradition to the US would constitute a “flagrant denial of justice”.

All eyes on London

Protestors from around the world gathered outside the courthouse over the two days of the hearing, demanding his release and the dropping of all charges.

Human rights organisations have almost wholly condemned the decade-long effort to have Assange extradited to the US, with Amnesty International warning that “Prosecuting Julian Assange on these charges could have a chilling effect on the right to freedom of expression, leading journalists to self-censor from fear of prosecution.”

Reporters without borders, present in London to observe court proceedings, reiterated “its urgent call for the US government to drop the case against Assange and allow for his release”.

WikiLeaks

Assange has been facing charges of Political espionage since 2010, where, as head and founder of Wikileaks, he released hundreds of thousands of classified documents to the general public.

The contents of these documents, leaked and published steadily since 2010, have been covered extensively by the free press in the past and, among other stories, revealed the extent of The United State’s crimes against humanity in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the extent of US surveillance and espionage, of both its allies and citizenry.

Assange was initially granted asylum in 2012 at the Ecuadorian embassy in London on the grounds that extradition posed a politically motivated threat to his safety. Ecuador revoked his status seven years later, citing Assange’s repeated violations of international law. He was subsequently arrested and transferred to Belmarsh Prison, where he has been detained since 2019.

Assange’s extradition had been all but approved in June 2022, signed off by then-British Home Secretary Priti Patel. The past two days of proceedings have mainly consisted of the Assange delegation’s last-ditch effort to challenge and overturn his imminent extradition.

The defence team has always maintained that the charges against their client represent a “flagrant denial of justice”.

Along with his lawyers, Julian’s wife, Stella Assange, has reportedly raised concerns for her husband’s safety, and his ongoing mental and physical health concerns have been well documented.

Assange was too ill to appear in either court session, but Stella stated she has additional reasons to fear for her husband’s safety.

“He should never be extradited to the United States. He would never be safe there,” she told reporters outside the courthouse yesterday.

Stella ended her statement by comparing her husband’s case to that of Alexei Navalny, the political activist and long-persecuted Kremlin dissident who died under suspicious circumstances in a Russian prison last Friday.

“Julian is a political prisoner, she said. ”What happened to Navalny can happen to Julian.”

The extradition must now take place within 28 days, but the family of Assange have stated they will apply to the European Court of Human Rights in the final bid to prevent it from happening.

However, as the UK government has already signed an extradition order with the US, there are concerns he would be put on a plane before the application can be made.

                           

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3 Comments
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A. Fan
A. Fan
1 month ago

Methinks you may be using the term ‘whistleblower’ a bit too liberally here. While it arguably applies to Snowden, not everyone helping him to evade the predictable consequences of his decisions (to their own ends) necessarily qualifies as one.

Caroline Muscat
Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  A. Fan

Methinks judgments are easily made from the comfort of your own home. Consider what Assange revealed, in partnership with major newsrooms. You don’t need to agree with his tactics, but at least acknowledge the world would have not known about war crimes without the risks he took. Same applies to Snowden and his revelations. Don’t get lost in terminology. Give value to the information and understand the risk people take to give you that information.

A. Fan
A. Fan
1 month ago

Thanks for your reply. While I also understand your perspective, I hasten to point out that intelligence data is kept secret for good reason, and not only in the United States. If people are allowed to disclose it without severe personal consequences, others will follow. At best, only some part of the intelligence apparatus will be temporarily compromised. At worst, the leaked information may result in mass casualties. Seems to me that the need to protect national security always outweighs any one person’s compulsion to break the law, albeit with the best of intentions. Western intelligence services are, by and large, subject to parliamentary oversight and legitimate avenues for whistleblowing also exist. Summa summarum, the Assange case is about much more than just one person or the specific data leaked. But I naturally respect your right to a differing point of view, and remain a fan.

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