Assange Extradition Order May Be Signed After UK Supreme Court Denies Appeal
In a blow to press freedoms, the case can now be sent from the Westminster Magistrates Court to UK Home Secretary Priti Patel in order to authorize the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom ruled against allowing an appeal by Julian Assange's defense to be made before them, creating a scenario that could have the WikiLeaks founder extradited to the United States by the end of the year where he would be put on trial for 18 counts related to publishing confidential documents that could land him a sentence of 175 years in a high security prison.
At the end of January, Lord Chief Justice Ian Duncan Burnett opened a pathway for the Assange defense to appeal to the UK Supreme Court. It came just a little over a month after a High Court sided with a U.S. government appeal that overturned the January 2021 decision against extradition.
Though the Chief Justice did not allow the appeal himself, he certified one of the three points of law raised by the defense as a "matter of public importance," putting the decision on whether or not to grant the appeal in the hands of the Supreme Court.
That one point of law centered around the U.S. government appeals that were only offered after Judge Baraitser's January 2021 decision against extradition, and which are riddled with loopholes.
As Assange's attorneys wrote in their application for appeal, the fact that the "assurances were permitted to be introduced in this case for the first time on appeal totally undermines the primacy of the extradition hearing and deprives the defendant of an opportunity to test them and their implications before the district judge."
"It is generally regarded as unfair, wrong, and abusive for a party to elect—for a perceived or actual tactical advantage—to conduct litigation in one way and then, when met with an adverse judicial decision on that, to attempt to re-litigate or appeal on a new and different basis," the lawyers wrote.
Assange's defense has also long argued that the U.S. assurances that claim to mitigate the suicide risk Judge Baraitser cited assure very little. For instance, the assurances against the use of Special Administration Measures (known as SAMs, which subject a prisoner to surveillance and solitary confinement if deemed a risk) are completely conditional, meaning the U.S. can choose whether or not to implement the measures based on their own assessment. They've also made note that preventing SAMs does not prevent isolation because in many cases, prisoners in the U.S. suffer through solitary confinement for reasons not associated with SAMs.
Similarly, the assurance that Assange won't be held at ADX Florence is not the only high security prison in the country that could present ridiculously oppressive conditions.
In spite of these legitimately flimsy assurances, the UK Supreme Court denied the request for appeal. Now, the case can go from the Westminster Magistrates Court to the United Kingdom's Home Secretary Priti Patel in order to have an extradition order signed.
If Patel signs such an order, there is a chance the Assange defense can raise a new challenge to the Magistrates Court on issues pertaining to press freedoms that have not been presented before them, which would keep Julian Assange in the UK.
However, if the High Court and the Supreme Court both say that it fails to raise "arguable points of law," Assange could be extradited within the calendar year.
The dangers for press freedoms are mounting. . .
. . . and the need for public pressure has never been greater.
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