Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s final bid to contest extradition to U.S. begins amid protests

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 20: Supporters of Julian Assange demonstrate outside the Royal Courts of Justice on the first day of Assange's final appeal hearing at the High Court against the US’s extradition order in London, United Kingdom on February 20, 2024. Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, could face a sentence of 175 years in prison on charges under the US Espionage Act for soliciting, gathering and publishing secret US military documents. ( Wiktor Szymanowicz - Anadolu Agency )

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange – who exposed U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq – is facing potentially his last chance to contest his extradition from the UK to the U.S. as a two-day hearing commences today amid fervent protests outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

Assange, detained in a UK prison since 2019, faces extradition over allegations of leaking classified military documents between 2010 and 2011.

The UK High Court, in a pivotal ruling in 2021, decreed that Assange should be extradited, disregarding assertions regarding his fragile mental state and the potential risks he might face in a U.S. correctional facility.

Following suit, the Supreme Court in 2022 upheld this decision, while then-Home Secretary Priti Patel affirmed the extradition order, intensifying the legal battle.

Assange steadfastly maintains that the accusations against him are politically motivated, a claim echoed by his legal team. They have hinted at a potential recourse to the European Court of Human Rights should the UK appeal fall short.

But in his latest bid for reprieve, Assange is seeking authorisation to scrutinise Patel’s determination and challenge the initial 2021 court verdict.

Should this legal recourse falter, Assange would exhaust all available avenues for appeal within the UK legal system, consequently triggering the extradition process.

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Meanwhile, outside the Royal Courts of Justice, supporters of Assange have gathered in solidarity, brandishing banners that read “Free Assange” and “Free journalism.”

Esla, one of the protesters who only gave her first name, said: “All of us we are here because we want Julian Assange free today. Julian Assange represents the truth of the press and our right to know. Release Julian Assange from prison to see sunlight for the first time.”

“After so many years of psychological torture, to be with his wife, his little children, his friends, his family, and all of us, and Julian Assange can continually bring us the truth. We need truth more than ever,” she added.

Another supporter, who did not want to be named, condemned actions of the U.S., stating: “America should be in the dark, America is a war criminal, the worst rogue terrorist state there is. They’ve been prosecuting wars for years.”

“They are terrible the way about what they do. Helicopter gunships killing people all over the Middle East. Julian Assange has published this, which we all need to know because it’s our taxes that go to support these wars, for oil for business contracts. And he’s just he’s just presented the truth through WikiLeaks. And now he’s in prison,” he added.

SOURCE: AA and 5Pillars

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