Julian Assange Granted Right to Appeal US Extradition

Julian Assange Granted Right to Appeal US Extradition
credit: pressgazette

London (Parliament News) – Julian Assange can appeal his US extradition on charges of leaking military secrets, challenging assurances on fair trial rights, especially First Amendment protections. 

Julian Assange has been given leave to mount a fresh plea against his extradition to the US on charges of leaking military secrets and will be capable of challenging assurances from American officials on how a trial there would be performed.

Two judges had shelved a decision in March on whether Assange, who is trying to evade being prosecuted in the US on espionage charges linking to the publication of thousands of classified and diplomatic manuscripts, could take his claim to another appeal hearing. On that occurrence, Dame Victoria Sharp and Mr Justice Johnson ruled he would be able to carry an appeal against extradition on three grounds, unless “satisfactory” guarantees were given by the US.

Will Assange’s trial get First Amendment protection?

The assurances asked were that he would be permitted to depend on the First Amendment of the US Constitution, which defends freedom of speech; that he would not be “prejudiced at trial” due to his nationality; and that the death sentence would not be imposed.

At a hearing at the high court in London on Monday, Assange’s team did not challenge an assurance by the US around the death penalty, assuming it was an “unambiguous executive promise”. But they claimed that the situation was different in relation to any confirmation that the Australian-born publisher could pursue the same First Amendment protections on free speech as a US citizen.

Edward Fitzgerald KC, representing Assange, expressed problems surrounding the assurances by the US were “multifold” and they did not rule out the prospect of a US court ruling that the WikiLeaks founder, as a foreigner, was not permitted to First Amendment rights. The assurance was not that Assange could “rely” on First Amendment rights but “merely that he can strive to raise” them, Fitzgerald said.

Assange’s barrister also indicated what he depicted as “the deafening silence” from US prosecutors including Gordon Kromberg, an assistant US attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia, where Assange would stand trial. “Specific commitments from prosecutors are pretty common. We will not object to bail. We will not seek the death penalty as in this case. No such specific assurance has been given here,” stated Fitzgerald.

How will nationality affect Assange’s trial rights?

James Lewis KC, representing the US, expressed the judges should “not be fooled by the attractive and simplistic technique ” taken by Assange’s legal team. Assange’s nationality would not favour a fair hearing in the US, he stated, but the conduct he was charged with was not protected under the First Amendment.

“The position of the US prosecutor is that no one, neither US citizens nor foreign citizens, is entitled to rely on the first amendment in relation to the publication of illegally obtained national defence information giving the names of innocent sources to their grave and imminent risk of harm,” he added in reported submissions.

“This principle applies equally to US citizens and non-US citizens irrespective of their nationality, or place of birth, and irrespective of where the conduct took place, though it is ultimately a question of law for the US courts. The conduct in question is simply unprotected by the First Amendment.”

Beth Malcolm

Beth Malcolm is Scottish based Journalist at Heriot-Watt University studying French and British Sign Language. She is originally from the north west of England but is living in Edinburgh to complete her studies.