Julian Assange wins right to appeal US extradition

LONDON — WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been granted the right to appeal his extradition order to the U.S. on espionage charges.

London’s High Court ruled Monday that the Australian publisher can challenge his removal from the U.K. to the U.S. in a decision which extends his lengthy legal battle.

In March, the High Court granted Assange a temporary reprieve and gave the American government three weeks to provide “satisfactory assurances” he’d receive a fair trial; have his first amendment free speech rights protected; and will not face the death penalty.

But the court’s ruling Monday will further delay any removal of Assange and mean his legal status continues to be disputed. Legal argument Monday focused on the issue of whether Assange would be allowed first amendment protections.

Assange is wanted for 17 counts of violating the U.S. Espionage Act, obtaining secret military documents and conspiring to hack into a Pentagon computer network. If convicted, he could face a sentence of up to 175 years in prison.

The decision will lengthen Assange’s tenure at the high security Belmarsh Prison in southeast London, where he has been held since April 2019.

Legal action against Assange started in 2010 after hundreds of thousands of leaked documents about the Afghanistan and Iraq wars were published.

The publisher spent seven years in London’s Ecuadorian embassy between 2012 and 2019 to avoid extradition to Sweden on a separate investigation which was later dropped.

Assange’s supporters argue his work represents vital public interest journalism, while the U.S. said the release of confidential documents imperiled the lives of its agents.