assange protest extradition
© Anadolu via GettySupporters of Julian Assange pictured demonstrating outside the Royal Courts of Justice May 20, 2024
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's five-year battle against extradition to the US for espionage charges continues after he won a last-ditch legal battle to appeal.

There were gasps of relief from the Australian's wife and other supporters in the High Court as Dame Victoria Sharp said she and Mr Justice Johnson had decided they were not satisfied with assurances given by US prosecutors.

The judges had last month dismissed most of Assange's legal arguments but said he would be able to bring an appeal on three grounds unless the US provided 'satisfactory assurances.'

These were that Assange would be protected by and allowed to rely on the First Amendment, that his trial would not be prejudiced by his nationality and that the death penalty would not be imposed.

Dame Victoria told the court they were not satisfied Assange was guaranteed protection under the First Amendment.

Speaking outside court, Assange's wife Stella said the judges had made the 'right decision', adding: 'He should be given the Nobel prize and he should walk freely with the sand beneath his feet. He should be able to swim in the sea again. Free Assange.'

victoria sharp judge assange extradition
Dame Victoria Sharp
Delivering the ruling, Dame Victoria told the court: 'We have carefully considered the submissions made in writing and orally.

'First, in respect of the appeal under section 103 of the Extradition Act, we have decided to give leave to appeal on grounds four and five.'

Assange's lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald KC, said he was satisfied with assurances that if the WikiLeaks founder was extradited and convicted he would not face the death penalty.

But lawyers for the US said that the fact that Assange is accused of illegally obtaining and disseminating confidential defence information means he was not guaranteed protection by the First Amendment regardless of nationality.

In written submissions, he said: 'The position of the US prosecutor is that no-one, neither US citizens nor foreign citizens, are entitled to rely on the First Amendment in relation to publication of illegally obtained national defence information giving the names of innocent sources to their grave and imminent risk of harm.'

This principle applies to both US and non-US citizens irrespective of their nationality, he added.

The US has provided an assurance that if extradited, Assange 'will be entitled to the full panoply of due process trial rights, including the right to raise, and seek to rely upon, the first amendment as a defence.'

Assange's wife, Stella, has previously dismissed this pledge as 'weasel words.'

The ruling will no doubt increase calls in Assange's native Australia for the government to intervene on his behalf.

More than a hundred supporters gathered outside the Royal Courts of Justice to wave banners emblazoned with logos including 'If Assange goes, free speech goes with him.'

Assange declined to attend the hearing but Mrs Assange sat next to his father John Shipton in the well of court 4.
assange protest extradition
© ReutersA woman holds up a sign in support of Julian Assange on Monday, May 20, 2024
Supporters of Julian Assange cheered as news of the decision to allow his appeal against extradition to the United States filtered out of the courtroom.

Hundreds of people gathered outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, with many holding signs, flags and banners, while a band is also playing music.

Several speakers addressed crowds on a stage erected adjacent to the court building, with one telling supporters: 'Today is a victory, but part of the victory only.'

Following the decision, one man with a megaphone said to Assange supporters: 'We have to do more.'

Among the supporters chanting 'Free Julian Assange' were former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Labour MP Apsana Begum.

Kaylaa Sandwell travelled from east London to attend the rally and said:
'It was obvious from the beginning that they want to silence him and I think he's a very honest man, and he's spoken up for us, so we need to really support that.

'He needs to be freed because he hasn't done anything wrong.

'If he doesn't get freed, we won't have a free press anymore.'
Speaking outside the Royal Courts of Justice after Julian Assange won a bid to bring an appeal against his extradition to the United States, his wife, Stella Assange, said that judges 'reached the right decision' and called on the US to drop the 'shameful' case.

She said:
'Well, the judges were not convinced. Everyone can see what is going on here. The United States' case is offensive. 'It offends our democratic principles, it offends our right to know, it's an attack on journalists everywhere.

'We are relieved as a family that the courts took the right decision today but how long can this go on for? Our eldest son just turned seven.

'All their memories of their father are in the visiting hall of Belmarsh prison, and as the case goes along, it becomes clearer and clearer to everyone that Julian is in prison for doing good journalism, for exposing corruption, for exposing the violations on innocent people in abusive wars for which there is impunity.

'On top of that impunity they have gone after the man who put that impunity onto the public record.

'The Biden administration should distance itself from this shameful prosecution, it should have done so from day one, but it may be running out of time to do the right thing.

'Everyone can see what should be done here. Julian must be freed. The case should be abandoned. He should be compensated. 'He should be given the Nobel prize and he should walk freely with the sand beneath his feet. He should be able to swim in the sea again. Free Assange.'

'The judges reached the right decision. We spent a long time hearing the United States putting lipstick on a pig, but the judges did not buy it.

'As a family we are relieved, but how long can this go on? The United States should read the situation and drop this case now.'
The 52-year-old was indicted by a US grand jury in 2018 on 17 espionage charges and a charge of unlawful use of a computer, which Assange's lawyers claim could see him sentenced to 175 years in jail.

American prosecutors allege that the Australian encouraged and helped former US army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to steal the cables, which they claim put the lives of covert sources around the globe at risk.

President Joe Biden has faced persistent pressure to drop the case filed by his predecessor Donald Trump.

Assange had previously lived inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in Knightsbridge, west London, for almost seven years until he was eventually dragged out in 2019 when the Ecuadorian government withdrew his asylum.

He entered as a fugitive in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden on sexual assault charges, which he denied and which Sweden dropped in 2019.

During his time at the embassy, Assange fathered two children, Gabriel and Max, with his now wife, Stella.

Mrs Assange has said many times that extraditing her husband to the US would be a 'death sentence.'

Assange has been detained in the high-security Belmarsh Prison, southeast London, since April 2019.

He was arrested after spending seven years holed up in Ecuador's London embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faced accusations of sexual assault that were eventually dropped.

He was eventually forced to leave the embassy after relations between him and officials broke down, with one even accusing him of smearing faeces on the walls - a claim which was stringently denied by his supporters.

But the US continued to seek extradition and accuses him of publishing some 700,000 confidential documents relating to US military and diplomatic activities, starting in 2010.

The United States is attempting to convict Assange under the 1917 Espionage Act, which his supporters warn mean he could be sentenced to 175 years in prison.

The UK courts approved the extradition request after the United States vowed to not imprison him in its most extreme prison, 'ADX Florence', nor to subject him to the harsh regime known as 'Special Administrative Measures'.

Assange's supporters say his health is fragile and the Council of Europe this week voiced concern about his treatment.

The United States indicted Assange multiple times between 2018 and 2020 but President Joe Biden has faced persistent domestic and international pressure to drop the case filed under his predecessor Donald Trump.

Biden indicated recently that the United States was considering a request from Australia to drop the charges.

'President Biden has the chance still to be the president who put an end to this, who acted in the interest of press freedom in journalism,' said Rebecca Vincent, of Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
Timeline of Julian Assange's lengthy fight against US extradition:
  • August 2010: An arrest warrant is issued for Assange over two separate allegations - one of rape and one of molestation - after he visits Sweden for a speaking trip. He is questioned by police in Stockholm and denies the allegations.
  • November 2010: Stockholm District Court approves a request to detain the WikiLeaks founder for questioning on suspicion of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion. An international arrest warrant is issued by Swedish police through Interpol.
  • December 2010: Assange presents himself to London police and appears at an extradition hearing where he is remanded in custody. He is later granted conditional bail at the High Court in London after his supporters offer ยฃ240,000 in cash and sureties. US President Donald Trump calls for the death penalty for Assange.
  • February 2011: District Judge Howard Riddle rules that Assange should be extradited to Sweden.
  • November 2011: Assange loses a High Court appeal against the decision.
  • May 2012: The UK Supreme Court upholds the High Court decision.
  • June 19, 2012: Assange enters the Ecuadorian embassy in London, requesting political asylum. A day later, Scotland Yard confirms he will be subject to arrest for breaching his bail conditions.
  • June 2013: Assange says he will not leave the embassy even if sex allegations against him are dropped, because he fears moves are under way to extradite him to the US.
  • July 2014: Assange loses a legal bid to have an arrest warrant issued in Sweden cancelled.
  • August 13, 2015: Swedish prosecutors drop investigations into some of the sex allegations against Assange due to time restrictions. The investigation into suspected rape remains active.
  • October 12, 2015: The Metropolitan Police end their 24-hour guard outside the Ecuadorian embassy. It concludes a three-year police operation that is estimated to have cost more than ยฃ12 million.
  • September 16, 2016: Sweden's Court of Appeal rejects a bid by Assange to have his sex assault warrant dropped.
  • October 2016: WikiLeaks publishes Democratic National Committee emails to the political benefit of Mr Trump, who remarks during his campaign: 'I love WikiLeaks'.
  • November 14, 2016: Assange is questioned for two days at the Ecuadorian embassy in the presence of Sweden's assistant prosecutor, Ingrid Isgren, and police inspector Cecilia Redell.
  • May 19, 2017: An investigation into a sex allegation against Assange is dropped by Sweden's director of public prosecutions.
  • August 15, 2017: Assange is allegedly offered a deal to avoid extradition in exchange for revealing the source of hacked Democratic Party emails to end speculation over Russian involvement.
  • December 2017: It is claimed that unnamed US figures who have been paying a security contractor to bug Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy have discussed a desperate plan to kidnap or poison him.
  • August 9, 2018: The US Senate Committee asks to interview Assange as part of its investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
  • September 27, 2018: Assange steps down as editor of WikiLeaks.
  • January 23, 2019: Lawyers for Assange say they are taking action aimed at making Mr Trump's administration reveal charges 'secretly filed' against him.
  • April 11, 2019: Assange is arrested after the Ecuadorian government withdraws his asylum, blaming his 'repeated violations' of 'international conventions and daily-life protocols'. He is found guilty of breaching the Bail Act and remanded in custody at Belmarsh Prison.
  • May 1, 2019: Assange is sentenced to 50 weeks' imprisonment by Southwark Crown Court. He continues to be held on remand in Belmarsh from September after serving the custodial sentence.
  • November 19, 2019: The alleged rape investigation is discontinued.
  • February 24, 2020: Assange faces an extradition hearing at Woolwich Crown Court, where his representatives argue he cannot legally be handed to the US for 'political offences' because of a 2003 extradition treaty.
  • March 25, 2020: Assange appears via video link at Westminster Magistrates' Court, where he is refused bail amid the coronavirus crisis.
  • June 24, 2020: The US Department of Justice issues an updated 18-count indictment over Assange's alleged role in 'one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States'.
  • September 7, 2020: Assange's extradition hearing resumes at the Old Bailey.
  • January 4, 2021: A judge at the Old Bailey rules that Assange cannot be extradited to the United States.
  • August 11, 2021: The US government is allowed by the High Court to expand the basis of its appeal against the judge's decision not to extradite Assange.
  • December 10, 2021: The US government wins its High Court bid to overturn the judge's decision not to extradite Assange.
  • December 23, 2021: Assange's partner says lawyers have started the process towards a Supreme Court appeal over his extradition to the US.
  • March 14, 2022: Assange is denied permission to appeal against the High Court's decision in December 2021 to extradite him to the US, the Supreme Court confirms.
  • April 20, 2022: Westminster Magistrates' Court formally issues an extradition order, meaning Home Secretary Priti Patel is now responsible for deciding whether to approve the extradition, with two months to make her decision.
  • June 17, 2022: Ms Patel signs the extradition order. Assange has the usual 14-day right to appeal.
  • July 1, 2022: Assange lodges an appeal against a decision to extradite him to the United States.
  • November 30, 2022: Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says he recently told US President Joe Biden's administration to end the prosecution of Assange.
  • April 10, 2023: A letter to the US attorney general is signed by 35 parliamentarians calling for extradition proceedings to be dropped against Assange on the fourth anniversary of his detention at Belmarsh Prison.
  • June 9, 2023: Assange loses latest extradition appeal bid.
  • January 10, 2024: The lawyer for Assange says the WikiLeaks founder's life 'is at risk' if his final appeal against his extradition to the US fails.
  • March 26, 2024: Two judges at the High Court decline to dismiss or grant Assange's bid for an appeal, giving the US authorities three weeks to provide 'satisfactory assurances'.
  • April 17, 2024: The two judges confirm the US authorities have provided an assurance to the court, meaning a decision on Assange's appeal bid will be considered at a hearing in May.
  • May 20, 2024: A further High Court hearing is due to take place.