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London court says Assange can appeal extradition to the US

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange being taken from court.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange being taken from court. Copyright Matt Dunham/AP Photo
Copyright Matt Dunham/AP Photo
By Anna DesmaraisAP
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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has grounds to appeal his extradition to the United States, London's High Court ruled.


WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has grounds to appeal his extradition to the United States, London's High Court has ruled. 

Assange, 52, is facing 17 espionage charges and one charge of computer misuse in the US after he published a trove of classified documents in 2010 related to the US military's conduct during the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. 

If charged in the US, Assange faces up to 175 years in prison if he's convicted but American authorities say that his sentence could be shorter. 

London's High Court adjourned the case in March, asking US prosecutors to come back with "satisfactory assurances" that Assange would not face the death penalty if convicted and, if extradited, that he would have the same free speech protections as US citizens. 

Two senior judges with the court decided on Monday that US submissions were not sufficient and they would allow the appeal to go ahead.

The US had said they're willing to let a judge decide whether Assange, who is Australian, would be granted the same freedom of speech protections under the First Amendment: a change from its past arguments, where they said he wouldn't be entitled to those rights because he's not a US citizen. 

“The US has limited itself to blatant weasel words claiming that Julian can ‘seek to raise’ the First Amendment if extradited,” his wife, Stella Assange, said. 

"The diplomatic note does nothing to relieve our family’s extreme distress about his future — his grim expectation of spending the rest of his life in isolation in US prison for publishing award-winning journalism".

Before the adjournment, Assange's lawyers argued he was acting as a journalist and sending him to the US would expose him to a risk of a "flagrant denial of justice".

The US government believes he went way beyond the actions of a journalist by how he gathered the information and put lives at risk by publishing classified documents. 

This win by Assange's team sets the stage for an appeal process that will extend what has already been a long legal saga.

US President Joe Biden said last month that he was considering a request from Australia to drop the case and let Assange return to his home country.

Officials provided no other details but Stella Assange said it was “a good sign” and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the comment was encouraging.

Assange is currently in a British high-security prison, his base since he was forced to leave the Ecuadorian Embassy in London after seven years there.

His supporters say the prison time, along with the legal battles, is contributing to his poor physical and mental health.

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