A High Court judge in London has denied Julian Assange permission to appeal an order to extradite him to the United States, where he faces criminal charges under the Espionage Act.
The decision was dated Tuesday and is the latest in a years-long legal saga. His camp told CNN on Thursday that they will lodge a new appeal next week.
In a ruling dated June 6, 2023 and seen by CNN, Mr. Justice Swift said Assange’s application had been refused stating that “none of the four grounds of appeal raises any properly arguable point.”
In a separate ruling, the High Court judge also denied Assange permission to appeal and challenge the dismissal of other parts of his case during a ruling by district judge Vanessa Baraitser in January 2021. After revising eight proposed grounds of appeal the judge argued he did not consider the proposed appeals raised “any properly arguable case.”
The 51-year-old is wanted by US authorities on 18 criminal counts after WikiLeaks, the organization he founded, published thousands of classified documents and diplomatic cables in 2010 and 2011.
A London court issued a formal extradition order to send the Australian to the US in April last year; it was rubber-stamped by the UK government two months later. The Home Office stressed at the time that the UK courts have not found his extradition to be incompatible with his human rights.
“The UK courts have not found that it would be oppressive, unjust or an abuse of process to extradite Mr. Assange. Nor have they found that extradition would be incompatible with his human rights, including his right to a fair trial and to freedom of expression, and that whilst in the US he will be treated appropriately, including in relation to his health,” it said in a statement announcing the order almost a year ago.
In response to the latest ruling, Assange’s wife, Stella, said her husband’s legal team would make a renewed application for appeal to the same court next Tuesday.
“The matter will then proceed to a public hearing before two new judges at the High Court and we remain optimistic that we will prevail, and that Julian will not be extradited to the United States where he faces charges that could result in him spending the rest of his life in a maximum security prison for publishing true information that revealed war crimes committed by the U.S. government,” she wrote in a post on Twitter.
Reaction to decision
Assange is currently being held at Belmarsh Prison in southeast London. He has been at the high-security facility since he was forcibly removed from Ecuador’s central London embassy and arrested by London’s Metropolitan Police in April 2019.
Since then, he has completed a British jail sentence for breaching bail conditions when he entered the diplomatic haven back in 2012 but has remained at Belmarsh as he has engaged in the lengthy fight against his deportation.
Assange faces an 18-count indictment handed down by the Eastern District of Virginia which alleges that the WikiLeaks founder actively solicited classified information, pushing former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to obtain thousands of pages of classified material and providing Assange with diplomatic State Department cables, Iraq war-related significant activity reports and information related to Guantanamo Bay detainees. If convicted, Assange could be sentenced to up to 175 years in prison.
In January 2021, a UK judge rejected a request from the US to extradite Assange, ruling that such a move would be “oppressive” to his mental health.
That decision was overturned by the High Court in December 2021 on the basis of assurances from the US government over how he was likely to be treated if extradited.
Supporters of Assange and human rights groups have long expressed concerns over the US indictment of the WikiLeaks founder, arguing the extradition order undermines freedom of the press.
Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office described the latest court decision as “disappointing.” It said allowing the extradition “would set a dangerous precedent, threatening all our rights to freedom of expression” in a Twitter post.
The reaction was similar from Reporters Without Borders (RSF) which said it was “deeply concerned” by the High Court decision against Assange which brings him “dangerously close” to being extradited.
“It is absurd that a single judge can issue a three-page decision that could land Julian Assange in prison for the rest of his life and permanently impact the climate for journalism around the world,” said Rebecca Vincent, RSF’s Director of Campaigns.
“The historical weight of what happens next cannot be overstated; it is time to put a stop to this relentless targeting of Assange and act instead to protect journalism and press freedom. Our call on President Biden is now more urgent than ever: drop these charges, close the case against Assange, and allow for his release without further delay.”
Meanwhile, the International and the European Federations of Journalists (IFJ-EFJ) said it was “appalled” by the decision. IFJ President Dominique Pradalié called on the British and US governments to end its “grotesque persecution” of the embattled Australian. She added: “If Assange goes to jail, no journalist on earth will be safe.”