Extradition: Assange must accept defeat | free press

London (AP) – Julian Assange can’t breathe easy: In the legal dispute over the US extradition request, the Wikileaks founder suffered a partial defeat on Wednesday.

As announced by the chairman of the London High Court, the scope of the appeals procedure scheduled for October is now being extended by a number of points.

The US judiciary wants to try Assange in the United States on charges of espionage. If convicted, he faces up to 175 years in prison. However, a judge in London had rejected the extradition request in January over Assange’s compromised mental health and expected prison conditions in the US. The US Attorney’s Office appealed this decision. The main trial is expected to take place on October 27 and 28.

In particular, Assange is accused of stealing and publishing classified material from US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan along with whistleblower Chelsea Manning. He endangered the lives of American informants. However, his supporters see him as an investigative journalist who exposed war crimes.

The US side questions the independence of an expert in assessing Assange’s health. According to the American argument, in a first report, he hid the relationship between the Australian and the lawyer Stella Moris during his stay in the Ecuadorian embassy and the two children of the couple, thus losing his credibility. The judgment of the judge in the first instance that the 50-year-old could commit suicide in prison in the United States must also be re-examined, the American lawyer argued in court on Wednesday.

Contrary to an earlier decision, both points should now be part of the appeal procedure. The US judiciary will also have the opportunity to give guarantees that Assange will not be exposed to overly harsh detention conditions, and formal issues will also come into play.

For the 50-year-old, this is a setback. The Australian was called in via video from the maximum security prison Belmarsh in the south east of the British capital. He wore long swept back hair, large glasses, and a loose-fitting white shirt. The ends of a tie hung loosely on either side of his collar.

Moris was very disappointed after the decision. She fought back tears as she approached the press in front of the courthouse. For years they have all been terrorized with death threats. “What has not been discussed here today is why I fear for my safety, the safety of our children and the life of Julian,” Moris said.

The London representative of the organization Reporters Without Borders, Rebecca Vincent, called on the US to drop the allegations. “Obviously, the US administration’s current strategy is to see this through to the bitter end. But she doesn’t have to,” she said.

Dozens of Assange supporters had already gathered in front of the court in the morning hours. With posters and chants “Free Assange” they demanded the immediate release of the 50-year-old for hours. “There is only one decision: no extradition,” it sounded again and again from the court.

A man had disguised himself as a Statue of Liberty with blood on his hands – an obvious fault on Washington. Several protesters accused US President Joe Biden of locking up press freedom behind bars on their posters. A 47-year-old woman from Manchester said: “The wrong person is in jail. The people who committed war crimes must be held accountable. Not the ones who published it.”

The Wikileaks founder has been in prison for more than two years. He had previously evaded authorities for nearly seven years at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Assange and Moris kept their relationship a secret for a long time out of concern for the safety of the family.

Moris had told the German news agency in an interview in June that he wanted to marry Assange in prison if the legal back and forth over extradition continued. That should have become more likely now.

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