Assange Makes Last Ditch Appeal Against U.S. Extradition

Julian Assange greets supporters outside the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2017. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

(Bloomberg News/TNS) — Lawyers for Julian Assange will make one last attempt to block his extradition to the U.S., where he faces decades in prison over spying charges in the long-running battle that’s spanned more than a decade.

The WikiLeaks founder asked a London judge for permission to appeal the U.K.’s 2022 decision to extradite him to the U.S., where he’s charged with criminal espionage for leaking classified documents. His lawyers argue that sending him to the U.S. would breach his human rights, while other supporters say it would be an attack on free speech. 

Lawyers for Assange said in court on Tuesday that exposing state criminality is a political act of opinion that should prevent him from being sent to the U.S.

The U.K. approved his transfer to the U.S. in 2022 after a court signed off on the decision. A previous judge initially blocked his extradition over concerns he would kill himself if sent to a high-security prison. 

Assange, 52, has been in prison or holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012, as he fought attempts to send him to face charges first in Sweden and then in the U.S.

The Swedish case against him was dropped, but the U.S. government in 2019 charged him under spying laws for his role in releasing hundreds of thousands of pages of classified documents via WikiLeaks, with the help of U.S. Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning.

“There could not be more at stake in a single court case than there is in the Julian’s case,” Stella Assange, his wife, said in a statement. “Journalists must have the right to report the facts that governments and corporations want to hide, otherwise a truly free press is impossible.”

Supporters including politicians, several human-rights and press-freedom groups, have argued that the ruling leaves questions about the media’s ability to report from classified sources. WikiLeaks published diplomatic cables and emails including a video that showed a U.S. airstrike that ended up killing a member of the Reuters news staff in Baghdad. 

Should the latest court bid fail, all legal avenues for Assange will have been exhausted.

Lawyers for the U.S. government asked the judge to dismiss the appeal as there are points that have already been litigated at previous hearings.

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