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Assange wins right to appeal against extradition

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Julian Assange has won the right to take his extradition case to the Supreme Court (Image by Dan Jensen)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is allowed to challenge the decision over extradition in the UK Supreme Court. Sara Chessa reports.

ACCORDING TO the British High Court, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can bring the U.S. diplomatic assurances to the attention of the Supreme Court as a point of law of general public importance. 

Assange won in a London court on Monday. His fight against extradition did not stop last month with the High Court's decision favouring the U.S. and his right to appeal to the Supreme Court against that previous verdict has been now recognised. 

Abandoned by the Australian Government and lonely like a stateless person against a superpower – but supported by many human rights authoritative voices – the WikiLeaks founder formally asked for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court over the decision to extradite him to the U.S. 

For the Supreme Court to consider a case, the latter must raise points of law of general public importance and the High Court must certify such relevance. Therefore, the same court – and the same judges – who pronounced the “Yes” to extradition in December had to consider the three points raised by the Assange legal team.

They have now delivered their ruling, accepting one of them. Namely, they acknowledged the right for Assange to submit to the Supreme Court's attention the issue of the “diplomatic assurances”. 

Such “promises”, written by the U.S. only after the first instance Judge Vanessa Baraitser said “No” to extradition, were sent by the Biden Administration in a note on February 2021. The aim was to reassure the UK that the WikiLeaks publisher would have served any sentence he received in Australia. And, above all, that he was not going to be detained under the Special Administrative Measures (SAMs), a draconian system in which the prisoner is treated like a non-human being. In other words, as someone to whom it is normal not to allow contact with other individuals and the sense of relief coming from the interaction with their peers.

In the second instance verdict, released in December 2021, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Ian Burnett, and Lord Justice Timothy Holroyde considered the U.S. diplomatic assurances as valid, despite the fact the UK received them only after the “No to extradition” pronounced in January 2021 by the first instance magistrate.  

In front of the Assange legal team request to appeal to the Supreme Court, the same judges did not grant Assange permission for that but said that the question of the “diplomatic assurances” presented after an extradition refusal was never heard by the Supreme Court. Therefore, in their opinion, it was for the Supreme Court itself to make the final decision. They also asked the Supreme Court to “take steps to expedite consideration of any application” coming in the future.

The Australian citizen will go ahead in his fight. And, as his fiancée Stella Moris said, this is a victory to all effects. However, she also said that justice is far to be reached.

She stated in front of the court:

“If there were justice, the crimes that Julian exposed, war crimes, the killing of innocent civilians, would not be immune.”

And, above all, she tried to make the public understand how much suffering still fills up Assange's hours, even when he wins in court. 

She said:

“As long as this case isn't dropped, as long as Julian isn't freed, Julian continues to suffer. For almost three years, he has been in Belmarsh Prison, and he is suffering profoundly, day after day, week after week, year after year. Julian has to be freed and we hope this will soon end.”

The same hope was in the eyes of the activists outside the court. After the leaden sadness perceivable among them in December, this time the perseverant supporters of media freedom were gifted with the clear vision of a further possibility, a new path to walk in order to free the man who is in prison for journalism. 

That path leads to the Supreme Court; it will be probably walked only in the second half of 2022. And, by that time, there is still hope for the Australian ministers to choose the highest values at the foundations of the world's democracies instead of the “quiet life” with a foreign superpower. 

Sara Chessa is a UK-based independent journalist. You can follow Sara on Twitter @sarachessa1.

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