Julian Assange loses latest extradition appeal bid

Julian Assange has lost the latest stage of his bid to appeal against a judge’s ruling over whether he should be extradited to the US.

The WikiLeaks founder is wanted in the United States over an alleged conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information following the publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

In a January 2021 ruling, then-district judge Vanessa Baraitser said that Assange should not be sent to the US, citing a real and “oppressive” risk of suicide, while ruling against the 51-year-old on all other issues.

US authorities subsequently brought a successful High Court challenge against this decision, paving the way for Assange’s extradition.

Assange, who remains in Belmarsh prison in south-east London, previously indicated that he wants to challenge the original judge’s dismissal of the other parts of his case.

However, in a decision this week, a High Court judge said all eight parts of Assange’s potential appeal were not “arguable” and should not be heard.

In a three-page ruling obtained by the PA news agency on Friday, Mr Justice Swift said: “The proposed appeal comes to no more than an attempt to re-run the extensive arguments made to and rejected by the district judge.”

In a separate decision, Mr Justice Swift also refused Assange permission to challenge then-home secretary Priti Patel’s decision to approve his extradition in June 2022.

Julian Assange extradition
Stella Assange, the wife of Julian Assange, speaks to the media outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, after a previous hearing (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

On Thursday, Stella Assange said that her husband would have a High Court hearing on June 13 to renew his appeal bid.

Mrs Assange tweeted: “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 US government.”

During their earlier successful challenge, lawyers for the US authorities said Judge Baraitser’s decision risked becoming a “trump card” for anyone who wanted to oppose their extradition.

They also said that four “binding” diplomatic assurances had been made, including that the US would consent to Assange being transferred to Australia, where he was born, to serve any prison sentence he may be given.

The Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, sitting with Lord Justice Holroyde, ruled in favour of the US in December 2021.

Campaigners pressing for the release of Assange take part in a demonstration during a Night Carnival in Parliament Square
Campaigners pressing for the release of Assange take part in a demonstration during a Night Carnival in Parliament Square (PA)

The senior judges found that Judge Baraitser had based her decision on the risk of Assange being held in highly restrictive prison conditions if extradited.

Lord Burnett previously said that if the original judge had been given the assurances from the US at the time of her ruling, “she would have answered the relevant question differently”.

The WikiLeaks founder’s lawyers had sought to appeal against this decision at the Supreme Court but were denied the opportunity in March 2022 as the bid did not raise “an arguable point of law”.

His extradition order was formally sent to Ms Patel the following month.