Julian Assange's wife vows to 'follow him wherever he goes' ahead of extradition hearing

Stella Assange said her husband is keen to take their two children to his native Australia

Stella Assange hopes judges in the UK will block the WikiLeaks founder’s extradition to the US. PA
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Julian Assange’s wife has said she’s holding out hope that judges in the UK will block the WikiLeaks founder’s extradition to the US and he will be able to see his native Australia again.

At a hearing in London’s High Court on Monday, judges are expected to give a ruling on whether to accept US assurances which would pave the way for Mr Assange to be sent to face 18 charges, nearly all under the Espionage Act.

In March, two High Court judges extended his long legal saga, saying they would grant the 52-year-old a new appeal unless given the assurances, including that he will not face the death penalty.

The Americans were also asked to confirm that he can use in his defence the First Amendment to the United States constitution, which protects free speech, and that his trial and sentencing will not be prejudiced by his Australian nationality.

If the judges rule against Mr Assange, it will be the end of the legal battle in the UK.

Speaking in central London, Stella Assange spoke of her hope and the toll the fight to avoid extradition has taken on her husband after being held for more than five years in Belmarsh maximum security prison.

“I believe and I have the sense that anything could happen at this stage. Julian could be extradited or he could be free,” she said.

Mrs Assange said if he is extradited, she will “follow him wherever he goes” and will “do whatever I can, and our family is going to fight for him until he's free”.

She added: “Julian misses Australia and we’re very keen to travel to Australia with the kids and for him to show his home country to our children.”

Julian Assange's wife says his extradition to US is an attack on press freedom

Julian Assange wife

She said she had not told the couple's two children, aged seven and five, about the extradition, saying she would not want to “inflict the uncertainty and the prospect of them losing their father forever”.

She said her husband was “under enormous pressure, as you can imagine” and was “having trouble sleeping” while also regularly meeting his lawyers.

But she said: “I think he's constantly encouraged by signs that there is political movement and a lot of people working publicly and privately to free him.”

She said judges could find against Mr Assange, in which case there will be an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. If the Strasbourg court decides to hear the case, then it could last for several more years.

If the High Court finds in Mr Assange’s favour and is not satisfied by the US assurances, there could be another full hearing at a later date. There is also discretion for the court to order a full appeal hearing.

“Julian is just one decision away from being extradited. If the judges find against him then there will be no further avenues for appeal” in the UK, she said.

“The UK will then move to extradite him. The timing is uncertain and in other national security cases involving extradition to the United States the person has been extradited within 24 hours of a decision.”

Her husband has been indicted on 17 espionage charges and one charge of computer misuse over his website’s publication of the trove of classified US documents almost 15 years ago.

Julian Assange through the years – in pictures

American prosecutors allege that he encouraged and helped US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal diplomatic cables and military files that WikiLeaks published.

Mr Assange was holed up in cramped conditions in the Ecuadorean Embassy in central London where he fled to avoid extradition to Sweden over sex offence allegations which were later dropped.

He had always argued that if extradited to Sweden he would then be sent to the United States over WikiLeaks' release of hundreds of thousands of secret documents and diplomatic cables.

After being dragged out of the embassy in 2019 and jailed for skipping bail, the US began extradition proceedings.

Updated: May 16, 2024, 7:17 AM