Tuesday April 16, 2024

Assange in final UK appeal against extradition to U.S.

Published : 20 Feb 2024, 23:15

  DF News Desk
A supporter of Julian Assange holds up a sign outside the Home Office in London, Britain, June 17, 2022. File Photo: Xinhua.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange began his final legal challenge in the United Kingdom (UK) on Tuesday against his extradition to the United States on espionage charges, reported Xinhua.

The UK approved his extradition to the United States in 2022 under then Home Secretary Priti Patel after a judge initially blocked it on Assange's mental health concerns. Assange and his lawyers have appealed since then.

In a two-day hearing that ends on Wednesday, two judges at the UK High Court, namely Victoria Sharp and Justice Johnson, will hear his final appeal against being sent to the United States.

Assange, 52, is wanted in the United States on allegations of disclosing national defense information following WikiLeaks's publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked military documents relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars a decade ago, which included an Apache helicopter video footage documenting the U.S. military gunning down Reuters journalists and children in Baghdad's streets in 2007.

Assange has been held at southeast London's high-security Belmarsh Prison since 2019. Lawyers for the United States said earlier that he would be allowed to transfer to Australia, his home country, to serve any prison sentence he may be given.

If the two judges at the UK High Court rule in Assange's favor, a full appeal hearing will be scheduled to consider his challenge and could lead to a new decision about his extradition.

If he loses the case on Wednesday, Assange's legal team has promised to apply for an emergency injunction at the European Court of Human Rights.

According to his legal team, Assange is not attending the hearing as he is unwell. His wife Stella Assange warned last week that his health was "in decline, physically and mentally."

Holding a placard saying "FREE JULIAN ASSANGE" among hundreds of protesters outside the High Court, local resident Aya Sycamore told Xinhua that she believes the case is "politically motivated." "He did nothing wrong, so he doesn't deserve to be in prison. He deserves to be free," she said.

"This is really wrong to keep an innocent man who only meant well for everybody to tell about the atrocities committed by the Americans," said Ela Ciecierska, also a local resident.

Edward George Green, who came from Birmingham on Tuesday morning, told Xinhua that Assange's being extradited to the United States will set "a horrible precedent" that could see people who want to "uncover the truth about war crimes" end up being imprisoned.