Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has won permission to try and appeal against a decision to allow him to be extradited to the United States, where he faces charges under the Espionage Act for his role in publishing thousands of classified military and diplomatic cables.
The decision to extradite Assange has rested on his mental health. In January 2021, a magistrates’ court ruling found that Assange could not be extradited as it would be “oppressive,” by reason of his mental health.
But the High Court overturned that decision in December, saying Assange could be extradited to the US on the basis of assurances given by the US government about his treatment there. These included pledges that Assange would not be made the subject of “special administrative measures,” nor would he be held at a maximum security prison before or after trial.
On Monday, Lord Chief Justice Ian Burnett and Lord Justice Timothy Holroyde denied Assange permission to directly appeal December’s ruling, leaving it to the UK’s Supreme Court to decide whether or not to take up Assange’s appeal.
The only argument they accepted from Assange’s team was that the Supreme Court had never considered whether higher courts could take up assurances made by a state requesting extradition, when the assurances were not put before lower courts earlier in the legal proceedings.
Assange’s fiancée Stella Moris hailed the High Court ruling as “precisely what we wanted to happen.”
“The High Court certified that we had raised a point of law of general public importance and that the Supreme Court has good grounds to hear this appeal,” she said in a statement outside the court on Monday. “The situation now is that the Supreme Court has to decide whether it will hear the appeal, but make no mistake, we won today in court.”
Assange is wanted in the US on 18 criminal charges after WikiLeaks published thousands of classified files and diplomatic cables in 2010. If convicted, he faces up to 175 years in prison.
Assange has been held in London’s Belmarsh prison since 2019, after he was arrested in connection with bail-skipping charges and a separate extradition warrant from the US Justice Department.
He had previously spent nearly seven years holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, protected by asylum status, avoiding extradition to Sweden.
Swedish prosecutors dropped their investigation of sexual molestation and coercion against him in 2015 and their investigation into rape allegations in 2019. Assange always denied wrongdoing in that case.