Julian Assange’s lawyers seek UK appeal against US extradition

WikiLeaks founder files application to appeal recent ruling that opens the way to extradition in the US.

The 50-year-old could be jailed for up to 175 years in the US [File: Frank Augstein/AP]

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s legal team has filed an application to appeal to Britain’s Supreme Court, after a lower court ruled this month that he can be extradited to the United States on spying charges.

The lawyers on Thursday asked for permission to appeal the High Court’s ruling, arguing that the US government’s pledge that the founder of the whistleblowing website would not be subjected to extreme conditions in prison was conditional and could be changed at the discretion of US authorities.

Stella Moris, a lawyer and the mother of Assange’s two children, said in a statement that a decision is not expected to be reached before the third week of January. The Supreme Court is Britain’s final court of appeal.

Stella Morris, partner of Julian Assange, said a decision on the application is not expected before the third week of January [Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images]

US authorities accuse 50-year-old Assange of 18 counts relating to WikiLeaks’ release of vast troves of confidential US military records and diplomatic cables relating to its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which they said had put lives in danger.

Assange moved a step closer to facing criminal charges in the US on December 10, after Washington won an appeal over his extradition in London’s High Court.

The court said it was satisfied with assurances about the conditions of Assange’s detention, including a pledge not to hold him at the “supermax” penitentiary in Florence, Colorado, the highest security prison in the country, or under “special administrative measures” including isolation, which could cause his mental condition to deteriorate.

US authorities also said that the Australian-born Assange could be transferred to Australia to serve his sentence if convicted.

The High Court ruling reversed an earlier judgement by a British magistrates’ court that it would be “oppressive” to extradite him to the US justice system due to his mental health and the risk of suicide.

Assange could be jailed for up to 175 years in the US, although the exact sentence is difficult to estimate.

He has been in custody since 2019, despite having served a previous sentence for breaching bail conditions in a separate case, and spent seven years at Ecuador’s embassy in London to avoid being removed to Sweden to face sexual assault allegations that were later dropped.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies