Julian Assange Has Big Setback in Extradition Fight

Britain's Supreme Court refuses to hear appeal
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 24, 2022 10:40 AM CST
Updated Mar 14, 2022 2:54 PM CDT
Julian Assange Wins First Round Against Extradition
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has won the first stage of his legal battle against being extradited to the US to stand trial on espionage charges, the AP reports.   (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File)

Update: In a huge blow to Julian Assange's hopes of avoiding extradition to the US, Britain's top court has refused to hear his appeal. The British Supreme Court said the WikiLeaks founder's appeal of the December decision allowing extradition "did not raise an arguable point of law," the BBC reports. Britain's home secretary is now expected to make a final decision on whether Assange, who faces espionage charges stemming from WikiLeaks' publication of classified documents, will be extradited. Lawyers for the 50-year-old—who is getting married later this month—say he hasn't ruled out launching a final appeal. Our story from Jan. 24 follows:

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Monday won the first stage of his effort to overturn a UK ruling that opened the door for his extradition to the US to stand trial on espionage charges, the AP reports. The High Court in London gave Assange permission to appeal the case to the UK Supreme Court. But the Supreme Court must agree to accept the case before it can move forward. "Make no mistake, we won today in court," Assange's fiancee, Stella Moris, said outside the courthouse, noting that he remains in custody at Belmarsh Prison in London. "We will fight this until Julian is free," she added. The Supreme Court normally takes about eight sitting weeks after an application is submitted to decide whether to accept an appeal, the court says on its website.

Just over a year ago, a district court judge in London rejected a US extradition request on the grounds that Assange was likely to kill himself if held under harsh US prison conditions. US authorities later provided assurances that the WikiLeaks founder wouldn't face the severe treatment his lawyers said would put his physical and mental health at risk. The High Court last month overturned the lower court's decision, saying that the US' promises were enough to guarantee Assange would be treated humanely. Assange's lawyers have argued that the US government's pledge that Assange won't be subjected to extreme conditions is meaningless because it's conditional and could be changed at the discretion of American authorities.

The US has asked British authorities to extradite Assange so he can stand trial on 17 charges of espionage and one charge of computer misuse linked to WikiLeaks' publication of thousands of leaked military and diplomatic documents. Assange, 50, has been held at the high-security Belmarsh Prison since 2019, when he was arrested for skipping bail during a separate legal battle. Before that, he spent seven years holed up inside Ecuador's Embassy in London. Assange sought protection in the embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden to face allegations of rape and sexual assault. Sweden dropped the sex crimes investigations in November 2019 because so much time had elapsed. (Read more WikiLeaks stories.)

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