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Updated May 20, 2024, 1:00pm EDT
UK
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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange wins bid to appeal US extradition

Insights from CNN, The Guardian, The New York Times, and The Nation

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Supporters of Julian Assange protest outside of the Royal Court of Justice, on the day of an extradition hearing of the WikiLeaks founder, in London, Britain, May 20, 2024. Picture taken through a vehicle. REUTERS/Hollie Adams
Hollie Adams/Reuters
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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can appeal his extradition to the US, a UK court decided Monday.

Assange faces 17 espionage charges in America for releasing a cache of classified documents on WikiLeaks in 2010. Assange, an Australian, has been held in a maximum security prison in London for the past five years.

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The British High Court’s decision means that Assange can now challenge US assurances over his prospective trial and determine whether his right to free speech would be protected. His legal team have argued that the case against him is politically motivated.

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Assange’s fate matters for freedom of the press

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Sources:  
CNN, The Nation

Assange’s claim to be a journalist is subject to debate, but nonetheless, press advocates argued the case holds consequences for journalists around the world. In a CNN op-ed, former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger noted it would be a “mistake” to see Assange’s fate as unrelated to the outlets he collaborated with, and compared the WikiLeaks case to The Pentagon Papers. The espionage charge, he wrote, “looks like a very belated attempt to punish whistleblowers and discourage journalists, whether conventional or not, from poking their noses where they’re not welcome.” Separately, in The Nation Chip Gibbons, policy director of Defending Rights & Dissent, called on the US government to “end this sordid saga—before it ends the First Amendment.”

Political leaders have shifted toward favoring Assange

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Sources:  
The New York Times, BBC News, Reuters

As Assange’s case has dragged on over the last five years, there has been a shift in some political leaders’ opinions of him and the charges. Kristinn Hrafnsson, the editor in chief of WikiLeaks, has said that efforts to obtain a political resolution have “been bearing fruit.” US President Joe Biden has previously said he is “considering” dropping the prosecution, while Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Biden’s comments were “encouraging” and backed a parliamentary measure calling for Assange, who is Australian, to be repatriated there.

Assange’s appeal could buy time for a political resolution

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Sources:  
The New York Times, The Guardian, The Conversation

The prolonged nature of the case may have allowed Assange to “buy time” for a diplomatic solution, the former head of extradition for the British Crown Prosecution Service told The New York Times. The appeal could mean Australia has “much more legal road to run in [Assange’s] battle with the US,” The Guardian noted. Assange has more options, including a later appeal to the UK Supreme Court and a potential intervention by the European Court of Human Rights, which the UK recognizes. “This appeal will be legally groundbreaking,” Holly Cullen, an adjunct law professor at the University of Western Australia wrote in The Conversation, as the court has yet to rule on a case that argues extradition would endanger a person’s right to freedom of expression.

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