WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange can appeal extradition to U.S.: UK court

Politics

LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 19: Julian Assange gestures as he speaks to the media from the balcony of the Embassy Of Ecuador on May 19, 2017 in London, England. Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

Jack Taylor | Getty Images News | Getty Images

LONDON — WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has the right to appeal against his extradition to the U.S., a high court in London found Monday.

Judges allowed an appeal after finding that U.S. assurances over how Assange’s case would be tried if he were extradited were not sufficient. An appeal hearing could be months away, Assange’s lawyer Edward Fitzgerald said Monday, according to Reuters.

Assange is wanted in the U.S. on spying charges and faces up to 175 years in prison. The charges are linked to WikiLeaks publishing hundreds of thousands of leaked confidential military diplomatic files on the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

In March, the Royal Courts of Justice in London said Assange would be allowed to pursue an appeal hearing if the U.S. did not provide “satisfactory assurances” about several key factors.

These included that Assange would be able to rely on the First Amendment right to free speech during a trial, and that, as an Australian, he would be granted the same First Amendment protections as a U.S. citizen. The U.K. court also requested assurances that Assange would not face the death penalty.

Fitzgerald on Monday told the court that the assurances made by the U.S. regarding Assange’s ability to rely on his First Amendment right were “blatantly inadequate,” Reuters reported.

The guarantee that Assange will not face the death penalty was accepted by Fitzgerald, who said the U.S. had made an “unambiguous promise not to charge any capital offense.”

James Lewis, who was representing U.S. authorities, said that any offered assurance does not bind the courts, but that they would consider and implement the provision as much as possible.

Protestors had gathered outside the court in London on Monday in support of Assange, and cheering erupted when the judge’s decision was announced, videos on social media showed.

Throughout Assange’s legal battle against extradition, which has lasted over a decade, the 52-year-old has spent seven years in self-exile within the Ecuadorian embassy in the U.K. and nearly five years in a high-security prison near London.

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