Julian Assange can appeal extradition to supreme court, London high court rules

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange: He has remained in custody while the US requested his extradition and even after the request was rejected. Photograph: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has a chance to overturn his extradition to the United States after the high court in London opened the way for him to appeal to Britain’s supreme court. Mr Assange faces 18 charges related to the release of 500,000 secret US files about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which could carry a jail sentence of up to 175 years.

A magistrates’ court ruled last year that Mr Assange’s mental state and the risk of suicide meant it would be oppressive to extradite him to the US. But the high court reversed that decision last month and accepted US diplomatic assurances that he would not be held in isolation in a supermax prison and that he would receive appropriate care.

Mr Assange’s lawyers argued that the high court should not have accepted the US assurances because they were given after the magistrates’ court rejected the extradition request. The court ruled on Monday that the supreme court can decide to allow Mr Assange to appeal on the basis of a single point of law, “in what circumstances can an appellate court receive assurances from a requesting state which were not before the court of first instance in extradition proceedings”.

It is not certain that the supreme court will agree to hear the appeal and the process could take months, during which the extradition is on hold. Mr Assange will remain in Belmarsh prison, where he has been held since 2019, throughout the duration of the appeal to the supreme court.

‘Far from achieving justice’

Mr Assange’s fiancée Stella Morris, with whom he has two sons, said outside the court that they were “far from achieving justice” despite what she described as a victory.

“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,” she 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.”

He spent seven years at the Ecuadorean embassy in London to avoid being sent to Sweden to face sexual assault allegations which have since been dropped because too much time had passed.

He then served a jail sentence for breaching bail conditions but he has remained in custody while the US requested his extradition and even after the request was rejected.

Mr Assange faces 17 espionage charges and one of computer misuse in the US, where prosecutors claim he unlawfully helped Chelsea Manning, a former army intelligence analyst, gain access to military and diplomatic files and cables. The documents showed how the US military killed hundreds of civilians in Afghanistan in unreported incidents and revealed the extent of civilian deaths and torture at the hands of Iraqi forces.