Britain’s top court refused WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange permission to appeal against a decision to extradite him to the U.S. to face spying charges. The court said on Monday that it refused because the case “didn’t raise an arguable point of law.” Assange has sought for years to avoid a trial in the United States on a series of charges related to WikiLeaks’ publication of a huge trove of classified documents more than a decade ago.
A British district court judge had initially rejected a U.S. extradition request on the grounds that Assange was likely to take his own life if held under harsh U.S. prison conditions. U.S. authorities later provided assurances that the WikiLeaks founder wouldn’t face the severe treatment that his lawyers said would put his physical and mental health at risk. In December, the High Court overturned the lower court’s decision, saying that the U.S. promises were enough to guarantee that Assange would be treated humanely. The case is now expected to be formally sent to British Home Secretary Priti Patel, who will decide whether to grant the extradition.
Assange’s British lawyers, Birnberg Peirce Solicitors, said they can make submissions to the Home Secretary within the next four weeks, ahead of her making any decision. Barry Pollack, Assange’s U.S.-based lawyer, said Monday that it was “extremely disappointing” that Britain’s Supreme Court is unwilling to hear the appeal. “Mr. Assange will continue the legal process fighting his extradition to the United States to face criminal charges for publishing truthful and newsworthy information,” he said.
Note: Your periodical reminder that the charges against Assange actually extend to 2015 and involve exploiting the way WikiLeaks helped Snowden flee to what ended up being Russia. https://t.co/p57UAcsgIG
— emptywheel (@emptywheel) March 14, 2022
American prosecutors say Assange unlawfully helped U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal classified diplomatic cables and military files that WikiLeaks later published, putting lives at risk. But Assange’s supporters and lawyers argue that he was acting as a “journalist” and is entitled to First Amendment protections of freedom of speech for publishing documents that exposed U.S. military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan. They argue that his case is politically motivated.
If convicted, Assange’s lawyers say he could face up to 175 years in jail in the U.S., though American authorities have said the sentence was likely to be much lower than that.