The legal saga is not over yet. The High Court in London authorized Monday, January 24, the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, to challenge before the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom the court decision authorizing his extradition to the United States. The Supreme Court must now review the case and decide whether to accept the hearing or not.
British justice initially ruled in favor of Mr. Assange a year ago when Judge Vanessa Baraitser opposed the surrender to US authorities of the Australian, citing the risk of suicide. But Washington won a major victory in December, when senior British judges overturned the decision, saying the United States had provided assurances that addressed the judge’s concerns.
Also listen Julian Assange: the turbulent history of the founder of WikiLeaks
The 50-year-old Australian faces up to one hundred and seventy-five years in prison in the United States for the dissemination, from 2010, of more than 700,000 classified documents on American military and diplomatic activities, in particular in Iraq and in Afghanistan. A case which, according to its supporters, represents a serious attack on the freedom of the press.
“Today is a partial victory”, most “the punishment is maintained” for Mr. Assange, detained in the maximum security prison of Belmarsh “for more than a thousand days”, lamented the editor of WikiLeaks, Kristinn Hrafnsson, referring to “serious human rights violations”. He denounced the US lawsuits as “a blatant terrorist attack on press freedom around the world”.
Incarcerated for two and a half years
If his request to the Supreme Court is rejected, the founder of WikiLeaks will have exhausted a new legal remedy. His extradition request will again be forwarded to a UK court with the recommendation to send it to Home Secretary Priti Patel to make the final decision – herself likely to be challenged in court in turn. Justice.
“Except in the event of an appeal, the person sought must be extradited within twenty-eight days of the decision of the Secretary of State to order the extradition”, specifies the government website. Incarcerated for two and a half years, Mr. Assange was arrested by British police in April 2019 after spending seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he had taken refuge while he was free under bail.
He then feared extradition to the United States or Sweden, where he was the subject of rape charges, which have since been dropped. During the appeal hearing about his extradition, at the end of October, the United States sought to reassure on the treatment which would be reserved for the founder of WikiLeaks.
Supporters of political asylum in France
Mr. Assange obtained to bring before the Supreme Court a single point of law, concerning the guarantees provided by a State requesting extradition between the judgment at first instance and the appeal. It is precisely these guarantees, provided during the summer, which had enabled the United States to reverse the initial decision to refuse extradition on appeal.
Washington says he will not be incarcerated in the high-security ADX prison in Florence, Colorado, nicknamed the “Rocky Alcatraz” – where they are being held in solitary confinement for al Qaeda members. – and that he would receive the necessary clinical and psychological care. They also mentioned the possibility that he could apply for a sentence in Australia.
Guarantees that convinced the British judges, but not the fiancée of Mr. Assange, Stella Morris, who fears for his health if he is extradited to a country which, according to her, has “conspired to kill Julian because of what he published”.
Mme Morris, with whom Mr Assange had two children when he was a recluse in the Ecuadorian embassy, was present at the High Court in London on Monday morning, where she gave a press conference after the court’s decision. “Our fight continues. We will fight until Julian is free”, she said. The Australian received the support of around forty French deputies from all sides who pleaded for him to be able to benefit from political asylum in France.