Successful US Assange extradition appeal ‘unthinkable’ says WikiLeaks editor

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It is “unthinkable” and “unacceptable” for the High Court to rule in favour of the United States as it appeals against the block on Julian Assange’s extradition, a senior WikiLeaks journalist has said.

The High Court is due to hear an appeal this week against a January decision not to extradite the 50-year-old to face charges relating to WikiLeaks’ publication of secret military files due to concerns that he would be a suicide risk in a US prison.

WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson told a press briefing in London on Monday: “It is unthinkable that the High Court will come to any other decision but to uphold the magistrates’ court decision. Anything else is totally unacceptable.

Julian Assange extradition
WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson said it is ‘unthinkable’ that the High Court will rule in favour of the US over Julian Assange’s extradition (Yui Mok/PA)

“It would be such a stain on the system in this country that I certainly hope there will be enough pressure and realisation of how devastating it would be for this country if somehow the judge comes to the decision of reversing the magistrates’ court decision.”

The briefing panel, which also included Mr Assange’s lawyer and partner Stella Moris and director of international campaigns at Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Rebecca Vincent, said the forthcoming hearing follows an investigation, published by Yahoo News, which alleged plots to abduct or kill Mr Assange.

A security firm, under investigation in Madrid, is also alleged to have spied on Mr Assange on behalf of the CIA while he was in the Ecuadorian embassy in London and been part of the alleged plot.

Julian Assange extradition
Julian Assange’s lawyer and partner Stella Moris said allegations of spying on behalf of the CIA ‘taint any semblance of legality’ of the US appeal (Victoria Jones/PA)

Ms Moris said: “This is a game-changer going into the appeal because it shows the true nature, the true origins, the true criminality of the US actions against Julian and it completely taints any semblance of legality of this appeal going into it.”

She added: “We were in the embassy with a group of mercenaries and one of the things they disclosed to the Spanish investigation is that they discussed poisoning Julian in the embassy and they discussed leaving the door open so that Julian could be abducted from the embassy.”

They also called on US President Joe Biden to drop the case.

Ms Vincent said: “We have been calling on the Biden administration to discontinue this case.

“At any point the Department of Justice could simply close this case.”

They were joined in their call by Amnesty International’s secretary general, Agnes Callamard, who said: “The US government’s unrelenting pursuit of Julian Assange makes it clear that this prosecution is a punitive measure, but the case involves concerns which go far beyond the fate of one man and put media freedom and freedom of expression in peril.

“Journalists and publishers are of vital importance in scrutinising governments, exposing their misdeeds and holding perpetrators of human rights violations to account.

This disingenuous appeal should be denied, the charges should be dropped, and Julian Assange should be released.”

Assange was arrested in the UK in 2019 after spending seven years inside the Ecuadorian embassy evading extradition to Sweden to face sexual assault charges which were later dropped.

He is wanted in the US to face 18 charges over the 2010 release by WikiLeaks of 500,000 secret files relating to military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The two-day hearing at the High Court will begin on Wednesday but a decision is not expected for four to six weeks.

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