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    UK Court Grants Julian Assange Temporary Reprieve Against Extradition To US

    March 26, 2024
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    Image by Paola Breizh

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    A London court ruled Tuesday that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange receives one final appeal in the U.K. to challenge extradition to the United States on espionage charges, but only if US does not provide suitable assurances. 

    Two judges issued a judgment in the High Court that allows Assange to take his case to an appeal hearing, but again, only if the Biden Administration is unable to provide the court with suitable assurance. 

    The president of the King’s Bench division, Victoria Sharp, and Mr, Justice Johnson wrote Assange had real prospects of success on three of the nine grounds argued, but adjourned the leave to appeal the application to give the US government three weeks to put present their concerns on the relevant matters.

    If Assange had been denied permission to appeal he could have been extradited within days. While the judges’ decision means Assange avoids that, it leaves him facing a further wait and no closure.

    In the judges' decision handed down on Tuesday, Sharp said the concerns that could likely succeed on appeal but which “may be capable of being addressed by assurances” were that Assange "is permitted to rely on the First Amendment, that the applicant is not prejudiced at trial, including sentence, by reason of his nationality, that he is afforded the same First Amendment protections as a United States citizen, and that the death penalty is not imposed. 

    It almost seems ironic to see the UK judges mention First Amendment in the context of US law when just last week, the US Supreme Court heard Oral Arguments on the First Amendment. Perhaps, the U.S. may not be able to give that assurance at this time because of this undecided US Supreme Court case. That decision is expected to come down from the court in June. 

    Last month during Assange's two-day hearing in the UK, Assange’s lawyers argued that he faced a “flagrant denial of justice” if prosecuted in the USoncharges relating to the publication of thousands of classified and diplomatic documents they said had exposed torture, rendition, extrajudicial killings and war crimes.

    His wife, Stella Assange, expressed dismay at the judges’ decision. “What the courts have done has been to invite a political intervention from the United States … send a letter saying ‘its all OK’,” said Julian Assange’s wife, Stella.. “I find this astounding."

    “This case is a retribution. It is a signal to all of you that if you expose the interests that are driving war they will come after you, they will put you in prison and will try to kill you,” Stella said addressing the media. "The Biden administration should not issue assurances. They should drop this shameful case that should never have been brought.”

    Sharp stated in Tuesday’s 66-page judgment that the UK home secretary’s lawyer had accepted that there was nothing in place to prevent Assange being charged in the US with an offense that carried the death penalty.

    She cited as evidence of such a risk “the calls for the imposition of the death penalty by leading politicians and other public figures; the fact that the [UK-US extradition] treaty does not preclude extradition for death penalty charges, and the fact that the existing assurance does not explicitly cover the death penalty.”

    On free speech protections under the Frst Amendment in the US, Sharp said: “He [Assange] contends that if he is given first amendment rights, the prosecution will be stopped. The first amendment is therefore of central importance to his defense to the extradition charge. Further, if he is convicted, he may wish to invoke the first amendment on the question of sentence. If he is not permitted to rely on the first amendment because of his status as a foreign national, he will thereby be prejudiced – potentially very greatly prejudiced – by reason of his nationality.”

    The US has been given until 16 April to file their assurance. If it does not do so, leave to appeal will be granted. If it does,, they will be considered at another hearing provisionally listed for May 20. 

    Nick Vamos, a partner at Peters & Peters solicitors in London and a former head of extradition at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), said they were “pretty straightforward assurances for the US to provide”.

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    Amnesty International and the National Union of Journalists urged the US to drop the extradition case. The UN special rapporteur on torture, Dr Alice Edwards, also said she still had concerns about Assange’s “precarious mental health”.

    “It is regrettable that the court did not comprehensively address the possibility of a disproportionate penalty for Mr Assange in the US, of up to 175 years and likely no less than 30 years,” she said. “Or the potential that he would likely be held in ongoing solitary confinement. Either of these could amount to inhuman treatment.”

    So, for now, Assange will not be eradicated and Assange waits in prison. In the meantime, several news organizations that initially worked with Julian Assange like the New York Times and The Guardian and other publications. 

    Time will tell if the Biden administration drops the charges, if the US supplies assurances to the UK court, and if the US grants Assange legal protection as if he were an American journalist. 



    Christine Dolan

    Christine Dolan is a seasoned Investigative Journalist, television producer, author, and photographer. She is Co-Founder of American Conversations whose format focuses on in-depth analysis of critical issues about “the story behind the headlines.”
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    tom Lahman

    The demoncrap party despises our constitution. They prefer to rule by fiat. The hold special venom for the first and second Amendments. The first for fear is being exposed for the lying hypocrites they are and the second for the likely consequences! FJB


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