UK: High Court begins consideration of Assange extradition appeal
On 11 August, the UK High Court began consideration of the US government’s appeal in the extradition case against Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange. In the preliminary hearing, the presiding judges granted permission for the US to pursue its appeal on two additional grounds, widening the scope to five grounds in total. The full appellate hearing will take place from 27 to 28 October.
In the 11th August preliminary hearing, the US government’s counsel argued that Professor Michael Kopelman’s testimony regarding Assange’s mental health had been “misleading” as his first written report to the court did not explicitly acknowledge that Assange had a partner and two small children, which had been omitted out of concerns for their privacy and safety. In an unusual step ruling against the District Judge, the High Court found that this point would be arguable in the appellate hearing, widening the scope of the grounds that the US government can appeal to five in total.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) observed the preliminary hearing, having been granted accreditation to monitor from the well of the court after facing serious barriers to observation in prior stages of proceedings.
“Today’s arguments made it clear that the US government continues to pursue this case until the very end, but it doesn’t have to be this way. We call again for the Biden administration to drop its appeal and close the case against Julian Assange, which has alarming implications for journalism and press freedom. Assange should be immediately released and certainly not extradited to the United States,” said RSF’s Director of International Campaigns Rebecca Vincent.
RSF believes that Assange has been targeted for his contributions to public interest reporting, and retains concerns about the state of his mental and physical health in prolonged detention in Belmarsh Prison.
The US and UK are respectively ranked 44th and 33rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2021 World Press Freedom Index.