Julian Assange launches final appeal against US extradition

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Julian Assange on Tuesday launched his final attempt in the English courts to prevent extradition to the US to stand trial on charges of spying and hacking over one of the biggest leaks of classified documents in history.

Lawyers acting for the WikiLeaks founder, whose website published secret military logs and diplomatic cables that revealed US activity in Iraq and Afghanistan, told the High Court in London that he would face a “flagrant denial of justice” if the UK facilitated his extradition.

The two-day hearing marks a legal climax for the Australian national who has battled for years to stop his removal.

US authorities have presented him as a menace whose actions not only undermined national security but also compromised the safety of particular individuals.

They have also branded his legal team’s claims he could spend up to 175 years in prison in the US as a gross exaggeration.

His supporters cast Assange, who is being held at the high security Belmarsh jail in London, as a political prisoner and journalist whose case is an important test of press freedoms.

The 52-year-old did not attend the hearing as his lawyers said he was unwell, but the proceedings attracted a boisterous crowd of supporters outside the court, including his wife Stella Assange. She said US security services wanted “retaliation” for exposing their “crimes”.

Edward Fitzgerald KC, representing Assange, told the court he was being prosecuted for “ordinary journalistic practices of obtaining and publishing true classified information”.

In written arguments, lawyers for Assange said the US was prepared to “go to any lengths” to stop those “prepared to try to bring those crimes to account”. “Mr Assange was one of those targets,” they added.

Lawyers for Assange claimed there was even evidence that the US security services had plotted to kidnap or kill him.

A lower English court had blocked his extradition in 2021 on the grounds that the move would put him at risk of suicide, while throwing out challenges his lawyers had brought on other legal grounds.

The High Court later that year overturned that decision after the US provided reassurances about his treatment.

In the new round of legal proceedings, Assange’s lawyers have sought permission to appeal on the other grounds originally dismissed by the lower court, including that his extradition is politically motivated.

If the English courts find against him they plan to ask the European Court of Human Rights to block his extradition flight.

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