WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s battle to avoid extradition to the U.S. will go to Britain’s Supreme Court after he was granted the right Monday to appeal a lower court ruling.
The High Court in London allowed Assange to appeal its decision that he could be sent to the U.S to stand trial on espionage charges.
The decision is the latest step in Assange’s long battle to avoid trial on a series of charges related to WikiLeaks’ publication of classified documents more than a decade ago.
Just over a year ago, a district court judge in London rejected a U.S. extradition request on the grounds that Assange was likely to kill himself if held under harsh U.S. prison conditions. U.S. authorities later provided assurances that the WikiLeaks founder wouldn’t face the severe treatment his lawyers said would put his physical and mental health at risk.
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The High Court last month overturned the lower court’s decision, saying that the U.S. promises were enough to guarantee Assange would be treated humanely.
The court on Monday gave Assange permission to appeal that ruling to the Supreme Court.
Assange, 50, has been held at the high-security Belmarsh Prison in London since 2019, when he was arrested for skipping bail during a separate legal battle. Before that, he spent seven years holed up inside Ecuador’s Embassy in London. Assange sought protection in the embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden to face allegations of rape and sexual assault.
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Sweden dropped the sex crimes investigations in November 2019 because so much time had elapsed.
American prosecutors say Assange unlawfully helped U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal classified diplomatic cables and military files that WikiLeaks later published, putting lives at risk.
Lawyers for Assange argue that their client shouldn’t have been charged because he was acting as a journalist and is protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that guarantees freedom of the press. They say the documents he published exposed U.S. military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan.