Assange’s Lawyers Appeal Extradition Case After Loss

The US’s case against Julian Assange will continue. This after his lawyers appealed the case following a recent loss.

It’s been an extremely long road, but that road is still ongoing. Back in January, Assange ultimately won his case to prevent his extradition case. For the judge at the time, the US penal system is so bad, it wouldn’t prevent Assange from taking his own life. It wasn’t exactly how supporters of journalism had hoped the case would go, but a win was a win.

Of course, a US general election happened at the time which did delay the US government’s response. While a decision over what to do was being formulated, 22 human rights organizations called for the case to be dropped. Unfortunately, the Biden Administration rejected the call for human rights and appealed the case anyway. Rights organizations, in October, made another attempt and called on the Biden Administration to do the right thing and drop the case. Unfortunately, the Biden Administration had no intention of doing the right thing in this case.

The case moved forward and the Biden Administration ultimately won the appeal. From CNBC:

Julian Assange, the 50-year-old founder of Wikileaks, is a step closer to being extradited from Britain to the United States after the U.S. government won an appeal in London’s High Court.

Judge Timothy Holroyde said Friday that the court “allows the appeal.”

Stella Moris, Julian Assange’s fiancee, said Friday: “We will appeal this decision at the earliest possible moment.”

She described the High Court’s ruling as “dangerous and misguided” and a “grave miscarriage of justice.”

“How can it be fair, how can it be right, how can it be possible, to extradite Julian to the very country which plotted to kill him?” Morris added.

More recently, reports indicate that Assange’s lawyers have, in fact, appealed the case. From Al Jazeera:

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s legal team has filed an application to appeal to Britain’s Supreme Court, after a lower court ruled this month that he can be extradited to the United States on spying charges.

The lawyers on Thursday asked for permission to appeal the High Court’s ruling, arguing that the US government’s pledge that the founder of the whistleblowing website would not be subjected to extreme conditions in prison was conditional and could be changed at the discretion of US authorities.

Journalism rights observers are growing increasingly nervous about the case and worry that this sets a terrible precedence for journalistic freedom. From Vanity Fair:

In a Friday ruling that may lead to Julian Assange facing criminal charges in the U.S., a London appellate court opened the door for the WikiLeaks founder’s extradition. In 2019, Assange was indicted by the Justice Department with 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act in 2010 for his role in publishing leaked U.S. military secrets related to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, charges that have alarmed press freedom advocates. Since then, Assange has been on the run, spending years confined inside the walls of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to avoid prosecution in the U.S.

Chants of “Free Julian Assange” and “no extradition” were shouted by protesters who gathered outside the courthouse and held signs that read “journalism is not a crime.” Critics of the U.S. effort against Assange claim that the DOJ’s prosecution could severely cripple press freedoms around the world, given that the charges came after the WikiLeaks founder exposed alleged war crimes committed during the Iraq invasion. In one of the most notorious videos published by WikiLeaks in its 2010 document dump, U.S. Apache attack helicopters can be seen indiscriminately firing at a crowd in Baghdad and killing several civilians, including two Reuters news staff.

Though Assange isn’t a traditional publisher, like, say, The New York Times, charging him under the Espionage Act for publishing government secrets could be a slippery slope in which more mainstream outlets are similarly prosecuted. “The U.S. government itself is endangering the ability of the media to bring to light uncomfortable truths and expose official crimes and cover-ups,” read a Friday editorial in The Guardian, one of the first outlets to publish revelations from the WikiLeaks cache. “The decision is not only a blow for his family and friends, who fear he would not survive imprisonment in the U.S.,” added Guardian editors. “It is also a blow for all those who wish to protect the freedom of the press.”

“Doesn’t matter whether Assange is a journalist—this case will have far-reaching implications for press freedom,” tweeted Jameel Jaffer, director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. “The Trump admin should never have filed the indictment, and the Biden admin should withdraw it.” Jaffer’s organization has been part of a coalition of civil liberties and human rights groups—including the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International USA, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Freedom of the Press Foundation, and Human Rights Watch—that earlier this year urged the Biden administration not to extradite and prosecute Assange. On Friday, Ben Wizner, the director of the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy & Technology Project, said “this indictment criminalizes investigative journalism.”

At this point, things are, indeed, looking bad for journalism and Assange. It is certainly possible to win this appeal, but the opportunities to block the extradition are dwindling fast. It has the potential to send the message that if your journalistic activities embarrasses the US government – rightfully or wrongfully – the price is death. The implications of this is that journalism that holds the powerful accountable might be discouraged – possibly via self-censorship. As a result, the implications for society as a result of this would be very far reaching.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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