UK dispatch: WikiLeaks founder Assange allowed to appeal extradition to US as hundreds gather outside High Court Dispatches
© JURIST // Alexis Boddy
UK dispatch: WikiLeaks founder Assange allowed to appeal extradition to US as hundreds gather outside High Court

The High Court in London ruled in favour of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange Monday, allowing him to appeal against his contentious extradition to the US for alleged espionage associated with the publication of  US classified documents while he . He will remain in the UK for the time being. Outside the High Court, under uncharacteristically sunny British skies, hundreds of supporters of Julian Assange had gathered in anticipation of the ruling. I was there, watching for JURIST.

Supporters began assembling outside the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand early this morning, alongside an array of speakers that included Assange’s wife, Stella, his father John and his brother Gabriel. Stella Assange said in a statement on the steps of the court that if the court did not find in Assange’s favour, then they would “seek an emergency injunction from the European Court of Human Rights.”

The bright weather seemed to reflect the hopeful mood of the crowd, who chanted “Free Julian” in support of the Assange and held banners proclaiming, “Free Julian Assange now!” and “Let him go, Joe!” One man, dressed as the Grim Reaper took to the stage to say “I’ve come here today dressed as the Grim Reaper to officially announce that British justice is dead.” People I spoke with emphasized the importance of press freedoms and freedom of expression, highlighting that this case held significant implications for the safety of both.

The court judgment in favour of Assange was announced to a jubilant crowd, with Stella Assange telling those assembled that “the judges reached the right decision. We spent a long time hearing the United States putting lipstick on a pig but the judges did not buy it.” WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief, Kristinn Hrafnsson, said on X that “the sun doesn’t shine all that much in London but today a glimpse a sun ray of justice, finally. Finally we saw it. And it will mark a path to victory.”

The judgment means that Julian Assange can now appeal against his extradition to the US. This is another stage in what has been an ongoing battle over nearly 13 years to avoid extradition to the US. Assange faces 18 federal charges in the US relating to WikiLeaks’ release of thousands of classified documents and diplomatic cables in 2010 and 2011. A UK district court initially blocked his extradition in 2021 due to mental health concerns, but the decision was overturned on appeal after US assurances were made. The matter was referred back to the Magistrates’ Court at Westminster, with instructions to send it to the Home Secretary (then Priti Patel) for the final decision on extradition. Assange appealed to the UK Supreme Court, but his request was denied. Subsequently, the Magistrates’ Court approved his extradition, and Priti Patel ordered it.

In March, the High Court ruled on a delay to extradition, giving the US government an opportunity to provide “satisfactory assurances” regarding Assange’s right to a fair trial, protection of his First Amendment free speech rights and that he would not face the death penalty. In their submissions, Assange’s barristers argued that the judges should not accept assurances from US prosecutors that he could rely on the protections under the First Amendment and that, due to his status as an Australian national, he could face discrimination based on nationality. The judges deemed the US arguments inadequate and granted Assange permission for a full appeal on issues of freedom of speech and nationality.

Director of Campaigns for Reporters sans Frontiers, Rebecca Vincent said outside the High Court that it was a victory and “means that the issues at the very heart of this case – freedom of expression, press freedom – will get consideration by these courts.”