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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can appeal against U.S. extradition, U.K. court rules

U.K. court delays Assange extradition
U.K. court delays WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's extradition to U.S. 03:53

A U.K. court ruled Monday that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange can appeal against an order to be extradited to the United States after his lawyers argued that the U.S. provided "blatantly inadequate" assurances that he would have free press protections there. 

The ruling came after the U.K. court in March requested that U.S. government lawyers give "satisfactory assurances" about free speech protections if Assange were to be extradited, and that he would not face the death penalty if convicted on espionage charges in the U.S.

Assange has been imprisoned for around five years in the U.K., and spent many years before that avoiding U.K. authorities by holing himself up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

If extradited to the U.S., he faces a potential 175-year prison sentence for publishing classified information about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq on the WikiLeaks website.

The Monday decision by U.K. High Court judges Victoria Sharp and Jeremy Johnson is likely to drag Assange's already long legal battle against the U.S. and U.K. governments out even further with his likely appeal.

Assange supporters, including his wife, broke into applause outside the London court as the ruling was announced. His wife Stella said lawyers representing the U.S. had tried to put "lipstick on a pig — but the judges did not buy it."

Extradition hearing of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, in London
Stella Assange, wife of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, speaks to the press outside of the High Court, after the verdict on the day of an extradition hearing of Julian Assange, in London, Britain, May 20, 2024. Hollie Adams/REUTERS

She called on the U.S. Justice Department to "read the situation" and drop the case against Assange.

"As a family we are relieved, but how long can this go on?" she said. "This case is shameful and it is taking an enormous toll on Julian."

She has for months voiced concern about her husband's physical and mental health.

What are the U.S. charges against Assange?

WikiLeaks published thousands of leaked documents, many relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Assange is alleged to have conspired to obtain and disclose sensitive U.S. national defense information.

In 2019, a federal grand jury in Virginia indicted Assange on 18 charges over the publication of classified documents. The charges include 17 counts of espionage and one charge of computer intrusion. Assange could face up to 10 years in prison for every count of espionage he's convicted of, and five years for the computer intrusion charge, according to the Department of Justice.

Breaking down the Julian Assange extradition saga 02:24

In a statement, the U.S. Department of Justice said Assange was complicit in the actions of Chelsea Manning, a former U.S. Army intelligence analyst, in "unlawfully obtaining and disclosing classified documents related to the national defense."

Assange denies any wrongdoing, and his lawyer says his life is at risk if he is extradited to the U.S.

In April, President Biden said he was "considering" an Australian request to allow Assange to return to his native country. In February, Australia's parliament passed a motion calling for the charges to be dropped against Assange and for him to be allowed to return home to his family in Australia.

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