US wins appeal against London court’s decision not to extradite Julian Assange

The United States has won its appeal in London’s High Court over the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Key points:

  • The US government was appealing against a London court’s ruling not to extradite Mr Assange to the US
  • Mr Assange, 50, is facing charges of conspiring to hack government computers and violating espionage law
  • The WikiLeaks founder has been remanded in custody, and will remain in Belmarsh prison

The win means Assange is a step closer to being extradited to the US to face charges of conspiring to hack government computers and of violating espionage law.

Judge Timothy Holroyde said the United States had given assurances to the United Kingdom about Assange’s detention, including about his treatment in the US prison system and that the US would allow him to be transferred to Australia to serve any prison sentence.

Judge Holroyde ordered that the case now be sent back to Westminster Magistrates’ Court with the direction that it be sent to Home Secretary Priti Patel for the final decision on whether to extradite Mr Assange.

The US had been appealing against a January 4 decision by a London District Court to deny Assange’s extradition because he would be a suicide risk if he was detained in a US maximum-security prison.

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In the January decision, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser said Assange could face conditions of “near-total isolation” and that procedures outlined by US authorities would not prevent him from finding a way to commit suicide.

But on Friday Judge Holroyde said he was satisfied with the package of assurances provided by the US, including that he would not be subject to “special administrative measures” – strict detention conditions which prevent contact with the outside world – or that he would be held at the federal ADX supermax prison Colorado.

The US also said Assange would receive clinical and psychological treatment at the prison he was jailed in.

Assange, who did not appear in court, has been remanded in custody.

US authorities have accused the 50-year-old WikiLeaks founder of conspiring to hack government computers and of violating an espionage law in connection with the release of confidential cables by WikiLeaks in 2010-2011.

Assange is facing up to 175 years in prison over the 17 espionage charges and one charge of computer misuse over the leaks, but the US government said in its appeal that a sentence of between three and six years was more likely.

Assange’s legal team to appeal decision

Stella Moris, Assange’s fiancee, said his legal team would appeal against the decision at “the earliest possible moment”.

Julian Assange’s fiancee, Stella Moris, said his legal team would appeal against the decision at the “earliest possible moment”.(ABC News: Isabella Higgins)

“How can it be fair, how can it be right, how can it be possible to extradite Julian to the very country which plotted to kill him?” she said outside the court.

“We will appeal this decision at the earliest possible moment.”

Assange’s case could now go to the Supreme Court, which is Britain’s final court of appeal.

Assange supporters seek answers from PM

Julian Assange greets supporters outside the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

A group of prominent Australians have written to the Prime Minister, asking what the government knew about an alleged CIA plan to assassinate the WikiLeaks founder.

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Assange has been in London’s high-security Belmarsh Prison since he was dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London in April 2019 and arrested for skipping bail seven years earlier during a separate legal battle.

He spent seven years holed up inside the embassy after fleeing there in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden in the face of rape and sexual assault allegations.

Sweden dropped the sex crimes investigations in November 2019 because too much time had elapsed.

Dozens of supporters gathered outside the Royal Court of Justice in London on Friday awaiting the court’s decision, covering an iron fence in yellow streamers with messages of hope. 

After the verdict was called, the group chanted: “Shame on you.”

Some embraced and consoled each other and told the media: “We will keep fighting … this isn’t over.”

Supporters of Julian Assange protest outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London Supporters of Julian Assange said they would keep fighting until he was freed.(ABC News: Isabella Higgins)

Another supporter picked up a megaphone and screamed in the direction of the court building: “Our justice system is broken.”

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