Julian Assange’s wife joins protest outside High Court as he begins last-ditch bid to fight extradition

WikiLeaks founder launching his bid to stop extradition to the US where he faces trial over leaked military files

Alex Ross
Tuesday 20 February 2024 20:52 GMT
Julian Assange ‘will die’ if extradited to US, wife warns

Protesters have gathered outside the High Court in London in support of Julian Assange as the WikiLeaks founder started his last-ditch bid to avoid extradition to the US.

Among those outside the Royal Courts of Justice on Tuesday morning were former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Mr Assange’s wife, Stella, who told a crowd: “They just cannot get away with this.”

Mr Assange is making a last-ditch appeal at the two-day hearing against being taken to the US, where he faces charges of conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information after the publication of intelligence files on WikiLeaks.

US authorities were successful in overturning a UK judge’s ruling in 2021 stopping Mr Assange from being sent because of a risk of suicide; leaving this week’s hearing as the final chance in the UK appeals process to halt extradition.

Protesters chant in support of Julian Assange ahead of his appeal hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice on Tuesday (AP)

Mr Assange has been held at Belmarsh prison since his arrest inside the Ecuadorian embassy in 2019, after the US indictment against him was unsealed. He had stayed at the embassy in London as he sought asylum to avoid extradition to Sweden on a rape allegation, which was later dropped.

If the Australian fails in his bid for an appeal this week, his legal team has said it will lodge an appeal at the European Court of Human Rights.

Julian Assange pictured in 2017 at the Ecuadorian embassy before his arrest and move to Belmarsh prison in 2019 (AP)

Outside the court on Tuesday morning before the hearing began at 10.30am, protesters gathered with banners reading “Free Julian Assange”. Golden ribbons were tied to the main fence and the surrounding gates and trees.

On a stage, his wife thanked the supporters and said: “Please keep on showing up. Be there for Julian and for us, until Julian is free.”

Stella Assange told the crowd: “They just cannot get away with this,” before the court hearing on Tuesday (AP)

She said: “We have two big days ahead, We don’t know what to expect, but you’re here because the world is watching. They just cannot get away with this. Julian needs his freedom and we all need the truth.”

Mr Corbyn said to the crowd: “He was telling the truth about what was going on around the world. He was telling the truth about the US involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. He was also telling the truth about corporate greed and corruption.”

Jeremy Corbyn spoke in support of Assange ahead of the hearing (Getty)

Labour MP for Coventry South Zarah Sultana said: “We know Julian is being targeted for exposing US war crimes. This isn’t just an attack on Julian, this is an attack on journalism, on the free press.”

Supporters of Mr Assange say he faces 175 years in prison if extradited to the US. But the US authorities say the 2021 decision to stop him being sent to the US on the risk of suicide would provide a “trump card” for anyone else.

For updates on the court case, follow our rolling coverage at The Independent.

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