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UK court to consider WikiLeaks founder’s last-ditch bid to fight US extradition

A protestor holds signs outside the Old Bailey, the Central Criminal Court ahead of a hearing to decide whether Assange should be extradited to the United States, in London, Britain, on September 8, 2020. (Photo by Reuters)

The High Court in London will begin considering the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange’s last-ditch bid to challenge his extradition to the US.

This week’s two-day hearing will consider granting Assange a last chance to appeal against an extradition decision made in 2022 by the then home secretary, Priti Patel.

Assange’s lawyers will argue that his extradition would amount to punishment for political opinions.

In 2010, the Australian national published a series of leaks provided by US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, including about 750,000 classified military and diplomatic documents related to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars which exposed the US military's crimes in these countries. 

Assange was arrested in England in 2019 after Ecuador revoked his diplomatic asylum at the country's embassy in London, where he spent seven years.

American authorities seek to bring Assange to trial over the release of classified military documents, charging him with 18 counts. If convicted, Assange could face up to 175 years in prison in the US.

Speaking at a briefing on the appeal last week, his wife, Stella Assange, warned that he will die, if he is extradited to US.

“His life is at risk every single day he stays in prison. If he’s extradited, he will die,” she said, adding “It is the final hearing, if it does not go Julian’s way, there’s no possibility to appeal to the supreme court or anywhere in this jurisdiction.”

On Tuesday morning, hundreds of golden ribbons with the words “Free Julian Assange now!” were tied to the main fence outside the Royal Courts of Justice as well as the surrounding gates and trees.

Protesters were waving Australian flags, holding placards with the words “Free Julian Assange” and “drop the charges”, and chanting: “There is only one decision – no extradition,” and: “US, UK, hands off Assange.”

On a stage outside the courts,Tim Dawson, the deputy general secretary of the International Federation of Journalists said “Be under no illusions, if this prosecution is successful, other vital cases will never come to light.”

“Free Julian Assange, support journalism and safeguard free speech,” he finished, to claps and cheers from the audience.

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