Court hearing over Assange’s future begins in London

Court hearing over Assange’s future begins in London
Assange’s supporters demonstrated in front of the court demanding his immediate release.

The Wikileaks founder, who has been held in a high-security prison in the British capital for years, did not attend the High Court hearing himself. However, his wife Stella Assange and his father John Shipton were in the courtroom. Assange’s supporters demonstrated in front of the court demanding his immediate release.

If the court grants the 52-year-old’s appeal, the years-long legal tug-of-war is likely to continue. If rejected, Assange faces imminent extradition.

  • More on the topic: Biden is considering waiving the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Assange

Assange faces up to 175 years in prison

The US government wants to put the Australian native on trial on espionage charges. According to his supporters, he faces up to 175 years in prison. Washington accuses him of having, together with whistleblower Chelsea Manning, stolen and published secret material from US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, thereby endangering the lives of US informants. Assange’s supporters, on the other hand, see the prosecution as a retaliatory action by Washington because the publications uncovered alleged war crimes.

The content on Monday is about whether Assange can invoke the right to freedom of expression in the USA as a foreign citizen and whether he faces the death penalty. The judges initially postponed the decision on the appeal at a two-day hearing at the end of March and requested assurances from the USA. Now the question is whether these assurances are sufficient or whether there will be an appeal hearing.

Assange’s wife Stella fears for his life if he is extradited because of the expected harsh prison conditions in the USA and her husband’s unstable psyche. The risk of suicide was also the reason why a judge initially rejected extradition. But the decision was later overturned. The British government agreed to his extradition. According to Stella Assange, it would be conceivable that the court would decide directly on the content of the appeal this Monday.

  • Comment: The Julian Assange case: Paralyzing (OÖNplus)

Hope for a political solution

In addition to a possible appeal process, Assange’s supporters are likely to pin their hopes primarily on a political solution. The Australian government is now campaigning for the release of its citizen. The Australian Parliament recently passed a resolution calling on the US and Britain to stop prosecuting Assange. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese emphasized that the matter had been dragging on for too long.

US President Joe Biden recently gave Assange supporters some hope. When asked whether Australia’s demand for an end to criminal prosecution would be examined, he said: “We are considering it.” Albanese called the statement “encouraging.”

In a maximum security prison for 5 years

Assange has been in London’s Belmarsh maximum security prison for almost five years. Before his arrest in April 2019, he had evaded law enforcement authorities for several years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. They initially targeted him because of rape allegations in Sweden. However, these allegations were later dropped due to lack of evidence. He is now in prison without a conviction. Numerous human rights organizations, journalists’ associations, artists and politicians are calling for Assange’s immediate release.

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Source: Nachrichten

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