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UK Court Ruling Grants Assange Reprieve and 'Strong Chance' to Appeal Extradition

© AFP 2023 / DANIEL LEALA supporter of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Richard Burgon, the Labour Party MP for Leeds East, speaks outside The Royal Courts of Justice, Britain's High Court, in central London on March 26, 2024.
A supporter of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Richard Burgon, the Labour Party MP for Leeds East, speaks outside The Royal Courts of Justice, Britain's High Court, in central London on March 26, 2024. - Sputnik International, 1920, 26.03.2024
The High Court of Justice in London ruled on Tuesday that journalist and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will not be extradited immediately to the United States and may continue to challenge this extradition through legal means.
The UK court ruling in Assange’s extradition case stipulates that the United States must provide assurances that Assange would get a fair trial and that he would not face the death penalty.
Commenting on this development, senior British human rights barrister Geoffrey Robertson, who has acted for Julian Assange in the past, told Sputnik that it is “very pleasing for those who support freedom of speech, because the High Court has acknowledged that there are a number of grounds of appeal which are strongly arguable.”
“The US will have to accept that it cannot impose the death penalty. I think that is probably easy for it to do, but it will have to counter arguments that he is, in effect, being sought for political purposes, which is a defense, to a country which wants to extradite you,” he said.
If the United States fails to provide the required assurances by April 16, Assange “will go to a further appeal before the Court of Appeal,” Robertson explained. If the US does provide the necessary documents, however, a new court hearing will be held in May where the court will decide Assange’s fate.
Either way, this ruling “protects Assange from extradition for a couple of months until America can counter his arguments,” Robertson noted.
He pointed out that, while the court essentially made a “provisional ruling” in Assange’s favor, it does grant the WikiLeaks founder “another chance, a strong chance of going forward and possibly succeeding on appeal.”
Regarding the public reaction to the court’s ruling, Robertson argued that many believe that Assange’s case “has gone on too long,” with plenty of people believing that the United States should “desist in its pursuit of him, and he should be allowed out to go back to his native land of Australia rather than face yet more time in prison.”
A supporter of Julian Assange holds a placard as she stands outside Westminster Magistrates Court - Sputnik International, 1920, 26.03.2024
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He also mentioned rumors that the US may be mulling a scheme that involves allowing Assange to plead guilty to a minor offense in exchange for dropping the “other, more serious charges,” which would allow Washington to both save face and put an end to this case.
“But for the time being, the case goes on,” Robertson remarked, adding that Assange has nevertheless “succeeded in showing that he does have serious arguments that the Americans are seeking him for political purposes.”
Regarding the attitude towards Assange in the United States, Robertson noted that many US journalists regard the persecution of Assange as a possible infringement of the First Amendment that “guarantees free speech.” The Pentagon, however, wants to make an example of him “to deter other whistleblowers.”
“So there are a lot of free speech advocates in America who are opposed to what they see as a Pentagon attempt to punish someone who reveals war crimes,” he surmised.
Some in Britain also regard Assange as “a kind of free speech hero who exposed war crimes committed by the United States,” while in his native Australia “there's quite a groundswell of support for him and a feeling that he should be allowed to come home,” Robertson added.
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