Lawyers for WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange filed an appeal against his extradition to the US, as human rights activists around the world continue to support the Australian journalist’s cause.
Assange was indicted in the US on 17 espionage charges plus one charge of computer misuse that carry a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison.
This is the first time espionage charges have been filed by the US against a journalist are widely considered retaliation for WikiLeaks’ publication of thousands of military and diplomatic documents leaked by whistleblower Chelsea Manning.
Assange’s legal team filed “perfected grounds of appeal” in the UK’s high court against the US and the UK home secretary, Priti Patel, who approved his extradition in June.
Assange’s lawyers argue he is “being prosecuted and punished for his political opinions.”
“Allowing Julian Assange to be extradited to the US would put him at great risk and sends a chilling message to journalists the world over,” said Amnesty International Secretary General Agnes Callamard.
“If the extradition proceeds, Amnesty International is extremely concerned that Assange faces a high risk of prolonged solitary confinement, which would violate the prohibition on torture or other ill treatment,” said Callamard. “Diplomatic assurances provided by the US that Assange will not be kept in solitary confinement cannot be taken on face value given previous history.”
“Assange has not hacked or stolen any of the information he published,” said human rights expert Nils Melzer, the United Nations. “He has obtained it from authentic documents and sources in the same way as any other serious and independent investigative journalists conduct their work. While we may personally agree or disagree with their publications, they clearly cannot be regarded as crimes.”
His wife claimed that the prosecution is unlawful. “Overwhelming evidence has emerged proving that the US prosecution against my husband is a criminal abuse,” Stella Assange said on Twitter on Saturday.
“The high court judges will now decide whether Julian is given the opportunity to put the case against the US before open court, and in full, at the appeal,” said Stella Assange, whose husband remains in London’s Belmarsh prison, where he has been in detention since April 2019 while fighting his extradition to the US.
Assange’s brother, Gabriel Shipton, and other family members have urged Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to take up the issue with the US after stating as opposition leader that “enough is enough” in regards to Assange’s incarceration.
“We’re dealing with this prosecution or persecution that in any normal circumstance would be seen as totally illegal, and if it was Iran doing it to somebody, or China, or Vietnam, the government would be calling them out,” said John Shipton, Assange’s 78-year-old father who has been leading the campaign to bring the Wikileaks publisher home to Australia. “It is not just about Julian’s life and his wellbeing, it is a matter of principle, and if Australia wants to be the sort of country that calls out nations on their press freedom record, they could definitely be more vocal.”
The appeal comes after the UN human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, met with Assange’s lawyers and his wife in Geneva.
The Assange Defense Committee said the Australian publisher suffered a mini-stroke Jill Stein, Chip Gibbons, Rev. Annie Chambers, Ben Cohen, Chris Hedges, and dozens more followed an October 8, 2022, march around the Department of Justice demanding that Attorney General Merrick Garland free Assange.
In Washington D.C., Ben & Jerry’s cofounder Ben Cohen, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges, EPA whistleblower Marsha Coleman-Adepayo, and CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou are among dozens of speakers who will call for an end to the persecution of Julian Assange.
Sending reporters to jail is a sure-fire way to erode the First Amendment. The Constitution enshrines the right to a free press, and there can be no free press while the threat of imprisonment hangs over journalists’ heads.