Hearing Coverage

What to expect in Julian Assange’s hearing this week

Will the High Court allow Assange to appeal?

February 19, 2024 — Julian Assange returns to court tomorrow and Wednesday, Feb. 20-21, at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, as a two-judge panel on the UK High Court listens to his final plea to appeal his extradition from the United Kingdom to the United States.

The judges’ ruling will not approve or deny Assange’s extradition but rather it will decide whether Assange should be granted a full appeal hearing on these issues at all.

Over the course of the two-day hearing, Assange’s lawyers will present the arguments that they believe are worthy of reevaluation, and the Crown Prosecution Service barristers acting on behalf of the U.S. government will be given time to respond. While previous appeal hearings dealt with Julian’s mental health, his likely prison conditions, and whether extradition would put him at unjust risk of suicide, this appeal will deal much more with the nature of the charges against him and what he would face in the courtroom if sent to the United States. 

The defense team intends to argue that this is a politicized prosecution, that Assange couldn’t receive a fair trial in the U.S., and that the charges against him are unprecedented.

Stella Assange has detailed these arguments in this thread

 1. Julian Assange should not be extradited to face prosecution and punishment for his political opinions exposing state criminality. Assange is being prosecuted for exposing US government criminality including war crimes and torture. There is extensive evidence of Assange’s political opinions on the importance of transparency in being able to hold governments accountable to deter future abuses. Extradition for political opinions is not allowed. The new evidence which emerged since the hearing of the C.I.A. plans to kidnap and/or kill Assange further supports this ground.

2. Julian Assange should not be extradited to face prosecution where the criminal law is being extended in an unprecedented and unforeseeable way. This is the first time in US history that a publisher has been prosecuted for obtaining or publishing (as opposed to leaking) US state secrets. The drafters of the Espionage Act did not intend for publishers to fall within its ambit, unchallenged expert evidence showed that receipt and publication of state secrets is routine, and that there was an ‘unbroken practice of non-prosecution’ of publishers. 

The prosecution ‘crosses a new legal frontier’ and ‘breaks all legal precedents’. Extradition would therefore expose Assange to a novel and unforeseeable extension of criminal law. To extradite Assange would be a grave violation of Article 7 ECHR.

3. Julian Assange should not be extradited because his prosecution amounts to a grave violation of his right to free speech. Publishing state secrets can play a vital role in a democratic society and criminal prosecution and conviction for such publications will deter the press from playing this ‘public watchdog’ role. The US indictment against Assange criminalizes essential journalistic practices and imposes a disproportionate sentence (175 years). To extradite Assange would be a grave violation of Article 10 ECHR.

4. Julian Assange should not be extradited given that the US affirms that he may not be granted any First Amendment protections at all. The US said it would argue at trial that Assange would not get First Amendment protection (Free Speech protections) as he is not a US national (he is Australian). In other words, as a defendant he would be prejudiced at a trial as he is not a US citizen.

5. Extradition should be barred because Julian Assange will not receive a fair trial. He cannot mount a public interest defense. In the US system, there is a tradition of coercive plea bargaining via overcharging to secure a conviction. Julian Assange faces 175 years for his journalism. The jury pool will be drawn from people connected to US Government national security agencies and contractors, and therefore likely to be prejudicial to Julian Assange. They will also be sensitive to public comments made by the US President and C.I.A. Director, tainting the presumption of innocence. Evidence obtained through the inhuman and degrading treatment of Chelsea Manning, spying on his lawyers and the illegal removal of Julian Assange’s legal files from the Ecuadorean Embassy mean there is no prospect for a fair trial. To extradite him would be a grave violation of Article 6 ECHR.

6. The US-UK Treaty prohibits extradition for political offenses meaning Mr Assange’s extradition would violate the treaty, international law and amounts to an abuse of process (including Article 5 ECHR). The offenses with which Assange is charged are all formally “pure political offenses” and therefore are extradition-barred under article 4(1) of the US-UK Extradition Treaty. It is an abuse of process for the US to make an extradition request which is prohibited under the terms of the Treaty.

7. Renewed application to admit fresh evidence about US plans to kidnap/render/assassinate Mr Assange in 2017 – relevant to his Article 2 and 3 ECHR rights. The C.I.A. planned to kidnap and assassinate Assange. This indicates that he will be subject to inhuman and degrading treatment if extradited to the US. To extradite Assange would mean delivering him right into the hands of the very people who plotted to assassinate him.

8. The Extradition Treaty would allow the US to amend or add charges which could expose Julian Assange to the death penalty. Under the same facts alleged in the extradition request, Julian Assange can be recharged under provisions of the Espionage Act which carry the death penalty. It is noteworthy that Chelsea Manning was charged with ‘aiding the enemy’, which carries the death penalty and US government officials have publicly labelled the allegations against Assange as treason and called for the death penalty.”

Check back here for continued coverage of Julian Assange’s extradition proceedings