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Julian Assange, Embassy Of Ecuador on May 19, 2017 in London, England.Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images

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LONDON (LifeSiteNews) — In a hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice to decide his fate, imprisoned journalist Julian Assange has won the right to appeal his extradition to the United States.

The May 20 ruling means his transfer to the U.S. to face charges under the Espionage Act is delayed. He was granted the right to appeal, in his absence, on the grounds that he could not be guaranteed a defense under the First Amendment in the United States.

The move came despite assurances from U.S. lawyers and could see Assange face months more imprisonment whilst an appeal is prepared.

Leave to appeal welcomed

Assange’s lawyers have questioned assurances that he will not face the death penalty if extradited to the U.S. to face 18 charges claiming his publications through WikiLeaks damaged U.S. national security and endangered the lives of U.S. agents.

No agent has been harmed as a result of Assange’s disclosures.

The U.K.’s National Union of Journalists welcomed the move.

READ: Julian Assange’s show trial could determine the future of press freedom in the West

At this crucial juncture, this judgment serves as a positive step forward for Assange and for every journalist seeking to reveal truths through their reporting… We welcome today’s judgment and hope it is the first step in victory for Assange.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, appealed for Assange’s immediate release:

President Biden should do the right thing now and clear the way for Assange’s release.

Five years and counting

Assange has been held for over five years in the maximum security prison of Belmarsh, South London, following his expulsion from the embassy of Ecuador in which he had sheltered over the previous seven years. This, according to his wife, has made him a “political prisoner.”

“The U.K. and U.S. are happy to talk about political prisoners abroad,” said Stella Assange, in a moving video account of Assange’s ordeal published on the morning of the hearing. “But they have created a political prisoner of their own.”

She points out that whilst war criminals such as former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair are free and very prosperous, Assange has been denied the right to appear at his own trials since 2021. What is more, she says, “Julian did nothing wrong. He exposed war crimes.”

She explained why he was imprisoned – as a punishment for revealing war crimes through his organization, WikiLeaks.

Julian is in prison because WikiLeaks is a publisher which specializes in the secrets that states keep the most hidden.

She went on:

Julian revealed war crimes committed by the superpower, the United States. That superpower has punished him.

She argues that the case extends the right of states to suppress press freedom beyond its own borders. This, she says, provides a precedent for critics of any regime worldwide to be targeted and silenced in the same way.

READ: Australia passes digital ID bill, raising fears of government surveillance without accountability

Stella Assange, a human rights lawyer, says evidence held by WikiLeaks shows that 30 former intelligence agents have said there was a plot to assassinate Assange by the CIA.

The plot was revealed in October 2021 and documented in a piece from the same month by Patrick Cockburn titled “The CIA plot to kidnap or kill Julian Assange in London is a story that is being mistakenly ignored.”

The beginning of the end?

The current head of WikiLeaks, the outlet formerly headed by Assange, branded the court’s decision as a win, according to Consortium News.

This was a watershed moment in this very long battle,’ said WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief Kristinn at an event following the hearing. ‘Today marked the beginning of the end of the persecution. The signaling from the courts here in London was clear to the U.S. government: We don’t believe your guarantees, we don’t believe in your assurances.’

Keeping Assange ‘caged’

Yet independent journalist Glenn Greenwald saw a darker motive in the long, drawn-out process of Assange’s continuing confinement.

His post on X (formerly Twitter) referred to the initial removal of Assange from the London Embassy of Ecuador, in which he had taken refuge in 2012.

Following accusations now withdrawn, an arrest warrant had been issued for Assange in 2010. His retreat into the Ecuadorian embassy saw him confined there for seven years.

However, 24 hours after WikiLeaks published details of high-level corruption in Ecuador, he was handed over to British police on April 11, 2019. He has been in custody or prison ever since.

Greenwald added:

The real purpose of pressuring Ecuador to remove its asylum protection for Assange, and now Biden’s relentless extradition demands, is not to bring Assange to the US for trial – the [White House] does not want that – but to keep Assange caged and destroyed.

READ: UK Liberal Democrats oust candidate over his Christian beliefs in a ‘breach of equality law’

The United Nations has long condemned his treatment, saying the British government was “arbitrarily detaining” him without charge.

Responding to one X user who said the courts were simply “kicking the can” by postponing a judgement, Greenwald replied again:

Yes, but Assange quite reasonably views extradition to the US as the worst of all options, because if that happens, he will be disappeared into a dungeon, tried in E. Virginia with national security judges who convict everyone, and then will die in a US cage.

Appeals and hope for release

With this grim fate in mind, the Defend Assange Campaign released the following appeal for his immediate release on X:

Julian Assange will remain isolated, in a cell in the UK’s harshest prison for the foreseeable future, following today’s granting of an appeal by the UK high court[.]

For over 13 years detained in one form or another – it is time to bring this charade to an end…

Hopes that President Biden, seeking to reconcile his tarnished image with younger voters, would drop the charges against Assange seem to be fading.

What remains in this box is not hope, as with that of Pandora, but a man who dared expose the crimes of the rulers to the ruled.

His treatment is an example to us all, and it is one which speaks a dark truth about those who remain in power.

Former U.K. ambassador Craig Murray, a longtime supporter of Assange, spoke outside the courtroom following the news:

“We haven’t got Julian out just yet… But we are on the way… to victory in this battle,” he said.

Murray, who recalled the 12 years he has spent in supporting Assange, gave the crowd a resoundingly confident message:

And we are seeing at last an acknowledgement of the crucial importance of freedom of speech, freedom of information, and of the public’s right to know.

And those are the grounds on which we will win this case.

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