Julian Assange has won the first stage of his bid to appeal against the decision to extradite him to the United States to the Supreme Court.
Speaking to the media after the ruling at the High Court, Assange’s fiancee Stella Moris said the ruling was “precisely what we wanted to happen.”
“The situation now is that the Supreme Court has to decide whether it will hear the appeal but make no mistake, we won today in court,” Ms Moris said.
“But let’s not forget every time we win, as long as this case isn’t dropped, as long as Julian isn’t freed, Julian continues to suffer for almost three years he’s been in Belmarsh prison and he is suffering profoundly. Julian has to be freed - we hope this will soon end,” she added.
Assange, 50, is wanted in America over an alleged conspiracy following WikiLeaks’ publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
In December last year, US authorities won their High Court challenge to overturn a ruling that Assange should not be extradited due to a real and “oppressive” risk of suicide.
Birnberg Peirce Solicitors, for Assange, previously said the case raised “serious and important” legal issues, including over a “reliance” on assurances given by the US about the prison conditions he would face if extradited.
If today’s ruling went against Assange, he would not be able to appeal to the Supreme Court, and the extradition request would be sent to home secretary Priti Patel for approval.
Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, sitting with Lord Justice Holroyde, said Assange could go to the Supreme Court itself and ask to bring the appeal.
“Whether or not the issue needs ventilation in that court is a matter appropriately for its decision,” Lord Burnett said.
Thomas Garner, extradition partner at law firm Fladgate LLP said today’s decision keeps Assange’s hopes alive of challenging his removal to the USA.
“Assange may yet have the dubious honour of being the first extradition defendant to secure permission to appeal to the Supreme Court twice. When he lost his first challenge – then to a European Arrest Warrant from Sweden –he sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy,” Mr Garner said.
He added: “There will be no such option this time as he remains in custody. The High Court has certified that Assange’s case involved a point of law of general public importance but declined to grant permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.”
Agnieszka Biel, extradition lawyer at Gherson Solicitors added: “In recent years the English courts have considered a number of extradition requests to countries in which individuals could face a real risk of torture and other ill-treatment, in breach of their Article 3 ECHR rights.
“The case of Assange raises an important legal issue over a reliance on assurances provided by foreign governments about the prison conditions in their respective countries, and whether such assurances are sufficient to reduce or even eliminate the risk of abuse.”
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