During the two-day hearing, the US government will argue against the 4 January decision issued by District Judge Vanessa Baraitser, ruling against Assange’s extradition to the US on mental health grounds. The US will be permitted to argue on five specific grounds, following the High Court’s decision to widen the scope of the appeal during the 11 August preliminary hearing. An immediate decision is not expected at the conclusion of the 27-28 October hearing, but will likely follow in writing several weeks later.
“As we return to court for yet more proceedings in the US’ never-ending legal battle against Julian Assange, we again emphasise our position: that Assange has been targeted for his contributions to journalism, that his extradition and prosecution would have severe and long-lasting implications for journalism and press freedom around the world, and that the case should be closed and he should be immediately released,” said RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire.
On the morning of the eve of the hearing, there were widespread reports that many - if not all - NGO observers, political observers, and journalists were still waiting to receive confirmation of accreditation from the court, either to attend in person or to receive access to the court’s remote video link system. RSF’s observers were told to write back to the court the day prior to the hearing, and at the time of publication were awaiting a response. RSF has been the only NGO to monitor the entire extradition proceedings despite severe restrictions imposed by the court, and has documented barriers to open justice in the case.
“We have faced more difficulties in accessing proceedings in the case of Julian Assange than we have in any other case, in any other country. We are extremely frustrated by the barriers to access we continue to face on the eve of the most important hearing to date in this case. These proceedings are overwhelmingly in the public interest and must be open to scrutiny. We sincerely hope the High Court will act in the interest of open justice and the right to a fair trial and enable us to do our jobs by accrediting us to observe the appeal hearing,” said RSF Director of International Campaigns Rebecca Vincent.
If Assange is extradited to the US, he could face up to 175 years in prison on the 18 counts outlined in the superseding indictment, related to the publication by Wikileaks in 2010 of several hundred thousand leaked classified military documents and diplomatic cables. Assange would be the first publisher pursued under the US Espionage Act, which lacks a public interest defence. RSF recently joined a coalition of 25 press freedom, civil liberties and international human rights organisations in calling again on the US Department of Justice to drop the charges against Assange.
The US and UK are respectively ranked 44th and 33rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2021 World Press Freedom Index.
Note: RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire and RSF Director of International Campaigns Rebecca Vincent will be present at the High Court on 27 and 28 October, and are available for interview in French and English. Please contact [email protected].