UK

Julian Assange faces wait for decision on whether appeal can go ahead

The decision will be given in writing at a later date.

Julian Assange supporters outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London during a hearing in the extradition case of the WikiLeaks founder
Julian Assange extradition Julian Assange supporters outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London during a hearing in the extradition case of the WikiLeaks founder (James Manning/PA)

Julian Assange now faces a wait to see whether his final UK bid to bring an appeal over his extradition to the United States can go ahead at the High Court.

The WikiLeaks founder faces extradition to the US over an alleged conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information following the publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

In a January 2021 ruling, then-district judge Vanessa Baraitser said that Assange should not be sent to the US, citing a real and “oppressive” risk of suicide, while ruling against him on all other issues.

But later that year, US authorities won their High Court bid to overturn this block, paving the way towards Assange’s extradition.

During a two-day hearing in London, lawyers for the 52-year-old asked for the go-ahead to challenge the original judge’s dismissal of other parts of his case to prevent his extradition.

At the end of Wednesday’s hearing, Dame Victoria Sharp and Mr Justice Johnson said they would give their decision at a later date.

At the start of Assange’s bid for an appeal on Tuesday, Mark Summers KC argued the US prosecution of Assange would be retribution for his political opinions, meaning it would be unlawful to extradite him under UK law.

He said: “This is a paradigm example of state retaliation for the expression of political opinion.”

But Clair Dobbin KC, for the US, said the plans to extradite and prosecute Assange are based on his alleged actions, not his political opinions.

She added there were “profound consequences” after the leak of documents, with some of the named sources, who had provided information to the US, facing arrest, the loss of assets, threats and harassment.

The two-day hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice has been attended by dozens of journalists and members of the public, with hundreds observing remotely.

Scores of Assange supporters demonstrated outside the central London courthouse over both days, waving banners and inviting passing drivers to honk their horns.