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Support, uncertainty as Wikileaks founder Julian Assange's extradition hearing continues

February 21, 2024 at 3:06 pm

Supporters Of Julian Assange Protest Ahead Of Extradition Appeal outside the Royal Courts of Justice on October 27th, 2021 in London, England [Kate Green – Anadolu Agency]

The last attempt by WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, to avoid extradition to the US commenced its second day of hearings on Wednesday at the UK High Court, amid heavy downpour in London, Anadolu Agency reports.

Supporters of Assange, once again, gathered outside the Royal Courts of Justice, braving the inclement weather and holding up banners proclaiming “Free Assange” and “Free journalism”.

Wednesday’s proceedings will see lawyers representing the US government present their arguments against Assange.

The Australian publisher and his lawyers call the accusations against him politically motivated. They have hinted at a potential recourse to the European Court of Human Rights should the UK appeal fall short.

The case against Assange has been the subject of intense international scrutiny, with debates surrounding its implications for press freedom and government transparency.

READ: UN Special Rapporteur urges UK to halt Julian Assange’s extradition, citing torture risk

Amid the legal wrangling, concerns for his health persist. It remains unclear whether he will attend the proceedings in person or via video link due to his ongoing health problems.

It is also unclear whether a verdict will be announced Wednesday.

‘They just cannot get away with this’

In a statement outside the Court, Assange’s wife, Stella, addressed the crowd saying: “We don’t know what to expect, but you’re here because the world is watching.

“They just cannot get away with this. Julian needs his freedom and we all need the truth.”

“Please … be there for Julian and for us, until Julian is free,” she said.

‘It’s time Assange is brought home’

Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, has intensified calls for Assange’s return to his country and for an end to the prolonged legal battle surrounding his extradition.

In a recent interview with public broadcaster, ABC Radio, Albanese revealed that he has pursued the matter at the “highest levels” in both Washington and London.

“It’s time Julian Assange was brought home,” he asserted.

“I have put the view very clearly, privately, as I have publicly, that enough is enough. It’s time Julian Assange was brought home. I’ve engaged with his legal team on a regular basis as well, on a strategy to try to get through this and come out the other side in Mr. Assange’s interest,” he said.

What happened?

Assange, who has been detained in a UK prison since 2019, faces extradition over allegations of leaking classified military documents in 2010-2011.

The UK High Court, in a pivotal 2021 ruling, decreed that Assange should be extradited, dismissing assertions over his fragile mental state and the risks he might face in a US correctional facility.

Following suit, the Supreme Court, in 2022, upheld the decision, while then-Home Secretary, Priti Patel, affirmed the extradition order, and intensifying the legal battle.

In his latest bid for a reprieve, Assange is seeking authorisation to scrutinise Patel’s determination and challenge the initial 2021 Court verdict.

Should this recourse falter, Assange would exhaust all available avenues for appeal within the UK legal system, thus triggering the extradition process.

READ: China: Assange case reflects US, UK hypocrisy on press freedom