Assange’s Hopes Dwindle: High Court Refuses Appeal, Threatening His Freedom and Journalism Worldwide
In a disheartening turn of events, the High Court of England and Wales has shattered Julian Assange’s hopes for an appeal, leaving him exposed to extradition to the United States. The court’s three-page decision swiftly rejected all eight grounds put forth by Assange’s legal team, dealing a severe blow to the WikiLeaks publisher’s fight against espionage and computer intrusion charges.
Despite this setback, Assange’s legal team still has one remaining option within the UK’s judicial system. They have five days to request a hearing before the court, grasping at a final opportunity to present their case.
In the face of uncertainty, Stella Assange, Julian’s wife, remains resolute and optimistic, issuing a statement expressing their determination to prevail in the upcoming public hearing. She highlights the grave consequences her husband faces if extradited to the United States—a life sentence in a maximum security prison for daring to expose true information about the U.S. government’s war crimes.
Stella Assange, Assange’s wife, issued this statement on Thursday:
“On Tuesday next week my husband Julian Assange will make a renewed application for appeal to the High Court. The matter will then proceed to a public hearing before two new judges at the High Court and 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 U.S. government.”
Statement:— Stella Assange #FreeAssangeNOW (@Stella_Assange) June 8, 2023
On Tuesday next week my husband Julian Assange will make a renewed application for appeal to the High Court. The matter will then proceed to a public hearing before two new judges at the High Court and we remain optimistic that we will prevail and that Julian will not…
Judge Sir Jonathan Swift, the authority behind the court’s decision, released the concise three-page judgment on Tuesday, though it is not yet publicly available on the High Court’s website.
This latest development follows Assange’s previous appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, which holds the potential to issue an emergency injunction to halt his extradition while thoroughly examining the intricacies of the case.
Initially, Assange won the extradition case at the lower court by citing concerns about his health and the conditions of U.S. prisons. However, the High Court overturned this decision after accepting written assurances from the U.S. government that Assange would not face mistreatment in their custody. Subsequently, Assange’s application to the U.K. Supreme Court for an appeal was denied.
In July of the previous year, his legal team filed a cross-appeal to the High Court, presenting eight grounds for challenging the decision, including the argument that the prosecution was politically motivated and violated the U.S.-U.K. extradition treaty’s prohibition of extraditing individuals for political offences.
It is this application for appeal that Judge Swift has rejected after a wait of 11 months, leaving Assange with limited legal options. The response from press freedom groups was swift and damning. Rebecca Vincent, director of campaigns at Reporters Without Borders, called it absurd that a single judge could issue a three-page decision with the potential to condemn Assange to a lifetime in prison and irreparably damage the climate for journalism globally
Intn'l Federation of Journalists: "The UK decision to allow the extradition of #Assange is vindictive and a real blow to media freedom"— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) June 8, 2023
Amnesty: "sends a chilling message to journalists the world over"
RSF: "implications for journalism around the world cannot be overstated" pic.twitter.com/HnYwfzvf6y
Interestingly, Judge Jonathan Swift’s previous involvement in a controversial immigration case sheds light on his approach to matters of public interest. He presided over an injunction to prevent the deportation of asylum seekers to Rwanda, dismissing the attempts of charities and a trade union to block the government’s plan. Judge Swift ruled that deportation flights of unsuccessful asylum seekers should proceed, emphasizing the existence of a material public interest and downplaying the speculative risks posed to refugees.
It appears that Judge Swift has established or should I say establishment track record that raises questions about his judgments on matters concerning justice, human rights, and the press. The consequences of his decisions reverberate far beyond individual cases, impacting the very foundations of democracy and freedom of expression.