Assange Won't Learn His Fate for Weeks

Judges reserve decision on last-ditch push to avoid extradition
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 21, 2024 9:30 AM CST
Updated Feb 21, 2024 2:45 PM CST
Lawyers for US Push Back on Assange's Last-Ditch Bid
Protesters demanding to free Julian Assange march to Downing Street at the end of a two-day hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024.   (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
UPDATE Feb 21, 2024 2:45 PM CST

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange won't find out until next month at the earliest whether he can challenge extradition to the US on spying charges, or if his long legal battle in Britain has run out of road. Two High Court judges said Wednesday they would take time to consider their verdict after a two-day hearing in which Assange's lawyers argued sending him to the US would risk a "flagrant denial of justice," the AP reports. If the judges rule against Assange, he can ask the European Court of Human Rights to block his extradition—though supporters worry that he could be put on a plane to the US before that happens, because the British government has already signed an extradition order.

Feb 21, 2024 9:30 AM CST

Lawyers for the American government argued on Wednesday before a London court why they think Julian Assange should face espionage charges in the United States, in response to a last-ditch bid by his defense to stop the extradition of the WikiLeaks founder. Assange's lawyers are asking the High Court to grant him a new appeal—his last legal roll of the dice in the long-running saga that has kept him in a British high-security prison for the past five years, per the AP. The 52-year-old Australian has been indicted on 17 charges of espionage and one charge of computer misuse over his website's publication of classified US documents almost 15 years ago.

Lawyer Clair Dobbin told the High Court on Wednesday that Assange damaged US security and intelligence services and "created a grave and imminent risk" by releasing the classified documents—risks that could harm and lead to arbitrary detention of innocent people. Dobbin added that in encouraging Chelsea Manning to steal from government computers, Assange was "going a very considerable way beyond" a journalist gathering information. Assange's supporters maintain he's a secrecy-busting journalist who exposed US military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan, that the prosecution is politically motivated, and that he won't get a fair trial in the US.

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Assange's lawyers argued on Tuesday that American authorities are seeking to punish Assange for WikiLeaks' "exposure of criminality on the part of the US government on an unprecedented scale," including torture and killings. They note that Assange could face up to 175 years in prison if convicted, though US authorities have said the sentence is likely to be much shorter. Assange was absent from court both days; wife Stella Assange said he wanted to attend but was "not in good condition." Assange's family and supporters say his physical and mental health have suffered during more than a decade of legal battles. More here. (Stella Assange says he won't survive extradition.)

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