Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has won a bid to appeal his looming extradition to the United States. On Monday, Britain’s High Court ruled that Assange may take his case to the UK Supreme Court. Assange faces espionage charges if authorities return him to the US.
In 2020, a London judge ordered that officials couldn’t extradite Assange as he was likely to take his own life in the harsh US prison system while awaiting trial. US officials assured their UK counterparts that they would treat Assange fairly while he awaits trial and emphasized that he wouldn’t face harsh prison conditions.
Britain’s High Court overturned the lower ruling after hearing the US’s assurances that Assange would be treated humanely. Justices Ian Burnett and Timothy Holroyd wrote that the promises were “solemn undertakings, offered by one government to another, which will bind all officials and prosecutors who will deal with the relevant aspects of Mr. Assange’s case now and in the future.”
Assange’s legal representatives argue that this view is too optimistic and that the US officials are lying. His lawyers point out that he would face charges including espionage and that promises made from one government to another won’t matter once Assange has been extradited.
Assange’s legal team succeeded in securing the American expatriate an appeal to the UK Supreme Court. The High Court’s decision to allow Assange to escalate the case doesn’t mean that the Supreme Court will hear his case, though. It’s still up to the Supreme Court Justices to decide whether they feel Assange has a legally-sound argument.
Assange has spent the last nine years in the UK after fleeing the US. He faces charges of espionage for his role in helping US Army intelligence official Chelsea Manning steal classified documents. The documents in question were later published on Assange’s website, Wikileaks.
Assange is currently imprisoned in Belmarsh Prison in London. He was arrested in 2019 for skipping bail during another legal proceeding. Before his 2019 arrest, Assange spent seven years in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. At that time, he sought to avoid extradition to Sweden over charges of sexual assault. Sweden later dropped the charges in 2019, as too much time had elapsed to pursue the case any further.
Assange’s lawyers maintain that he shouldn’t face criminal charges for his role in publishing US Army documents. They argue that their client was acting as a journalist and should be protected under the First Amendment of the US Constitution.