A London court will rule on Tuesday whether WikiLeaks’ Assange can challenge extradition to the US

A London court is due to rule whether WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can challenge extradition to the United States on espionage charges

Brian Melley
Monday 25 March 2024 17:22 GMT

A London court is due to rule whether WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gets one final appeal in England to challenge extradition to the United States on espionage charges.

Two judges are scheduled to issue a judgment Tuesday morning in the High Court that could put an end to Assange's long legal saga — or extend it further.

If he fails in winning the right to appeal, his legal team fears he could be swiftly sent to the U.S. to face charges, though they’re likely to ask the European Court of Human Rights to block any transfer.

Assange, 52, has been indicted on 17 espionage charges and one charge of computer misuse over his website’s publication of a trove of classified U.S. documents almost 15 years ago. American prosecutors allege that Assange encouraged and helped U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal diplomatic cables and military files that WikiLeaks published.

During a two-day hearing last month, Assange’s lawyers argued that he was a secrecy-busting journalist who exposed U.S. military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sending him to the United States, they said, would expose him to a politically motivated prosecution and risk a “flagrant denial of justice.”

The U.S. government said that Assange's actions went way beyond those of a journalist gathering information and put lives at risk in his bid to solicit, steal and indiscriminately publish classified government documents.

The Australian computer expert has been held in a British high-security prison for the past five years.

Assange’s family and supporters say his physical and mental health have suffered during more than a decade of legal battles, including taking refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London from 2012 until 2019.

“Julian is a political prisoner and he has to be released,” said Stella Assange, who married the WikiLeaks founder in prison in 2022.

Assange’s lawyers say that he could face up to 175 years in prison if convicted, though American authorities have said the sentence is likely to be much shorter.

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