Julian Assange is 1 UK decision away from being extradited
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Julian Assange is 1 UK decision away from being extradited

Protesters holds placards ahead of an extradition appeal hearing for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, UK, on Monday. Two London judges ruled in March that Assange couldn't proceed with an extradition appeal if the US offered up
Protesters holds placards ahead of an extradition appeal hearing for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, UK, on Monday. Two London judges ruled in March that Assange couldn't proceed with an extradition appeal if the US offered up "satisfactory assurances" over his First Amendment rights, given he is an Australian national. (Bloomberg photo)

Julian Assange’s long-awaited legal battle will reach a crucial stage as London judges decide whether his US extradition finally goes ahead or if he gets another appeal chance.

British judges previously signalled that Assange would only be put on a plane if the US government gave assurances over his first amendment rights and his safety from the death penalty. The US provided assurances last month and judges will decide whether they are satisfactory at a hearing on Monday.

The Wikileaks founder, who has been in prison or in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012, faces being extradited to the US in a matter of days if those promises are accepted. He’ll have no further avenue of appeal in the UK, leaving his final option a possible application to the European Court of Human Rights. 

Lawyers for Assange argued that the US assurance on his first amendment rights was not a binding one. “No express promise has been made,” Edward Fitzgerald, his lawyer, said at the hearing.

However, in relation to the death penalty, the US did provide “an unambiguous executive promise not to charge any capital offence.”

The US charged Assange with helping US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in obtaining around 750,000 classified or sensitive documents, one of the largest leaks of state secrets in US history. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 175 years in prison if he is found guilty on all counts, although sentences for federal crimes are typically less than that. 

US government lawyers asked the judges to allow the extradition to go ahead. They argued the assurance should be taken at “face value” and that “no one, neither US Citizens nor foreign citizens, are entitled to rely on the First Amendment in relation to publication of illegally obtained national defence information,” according to a court document prepared for the hearing.

President Joe Biden told reporters last month that the government was considering a request by the Australian government, Assange’s home country, to drop the case. US officials are also said to be considering a plea deal, according to a person familiar with the matter. 

Jennifer Robinson, Assange’s lawyer, said at a press conference last week that his legal team are working closely with the Australian government to try and find a resolution to the case. Assange has support from Prime Minister Anthony Albanese who said he has already paid a significant price and should be allowed back to Australia.

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