UK court denies Assange appeal against US extradition

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, prosecuted in the United States for a massive leak of documents, saw one of his last hopes of avoiding his extradition disappear on Monday, with the refusal of the British Supreme Court to examine his appeal.

• Read also: Julian Assange can be extradited to the United States

In this long-term judicial tussle, the senior British magistrates considered that his appeal did not raise “any questionable point of law”, explained a spokesperson for the Supreme Court.

The 50-year-old Australian is being prosecuted by American justice for the dissemination, from 2010, of more than 700,000 classified documents on American military and diplomatic activities, in particular in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Among them was a video showing civilians, including two Reuters journalists killed by US helicopter gunfire in Iraq in July 2007.

Prosecuted in particular under legislation against espionage, Julian Assange risks 175 years in prison, in a case denounced by his supporters as a serious attack on the freedom of the press.

Regretting the decision of the Supreme Court, the defense of the founder of Wikileaks indicated that the case would now return to the court of first instance. The High Court ordered him to hand over the case to Home Secretary Priti Patel, who is responsible for the decision.

However, an appeal on legal grounds that have not yet been examined remains possible, recalled the defense of Julian Assange, the firm Birnberg Peirce.

“This separate appeal process must, of course, still be undertaken,” they said.

In January 2021, British justice initially ruled in favor of the founder of Wikileaks. Invoking a risk of suicide of Julian Assange, judge Vanessa Baraitser had refused to give the green light to the extradition.

But Washington scored a major victory in December, when the High Court overturned that decision, finding the United States had provided assurances that addressed the judge’s concerns.

Julian Assange then obtained authorization on January 24 to appeal against the decision of the High Court before the Supreme Court, which therefore refused to take it up.

Held in a high-security prison near London for almost three years, Julian Assange was arrested by British police in April 2019 after spending seven years in the London embassy of Ecuador where he had taken refuge while he was out on bail.

He then feared extradition to the United States, or Sweden where he was the subject of rape proceedings since abandoned.

During the appeal hearing at the end of October, the United States had sought to reassure on the treatment which would be reserved for him.

Washington said he would not be incarcerated in the ADX very high security prison in Florence (Colorado), nicknamed the “Alcatraz of the Rockies” – where in particular are detained in near total isolation members of Al-Qaeda – and that he would receive the necessary clinical and psychological care. The Americans had also raised the possibility that he could ask to serve his sentence in Australia.

These guarantees had convinced the British judges, but not those close to Julian Assange who fear for his mental and physical health.

His partner Stella Moris, a South African lawyer, announced on Sunday that the couple had received permission to marry on March 23 in prison.


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