Successful US appeal to extradite Julian Assange is 'unthinkable'

UK High Court due to hear a US appeal against the decision not to extradite Assange

Some of Julian Assange’s closest allies have pleaded with the UK not to bow to US pressure before an appeals hearing on his extradition.

WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson said it would be “unthinkable” and “unacceptable” for the High Court to rule in favour of the US.

Stella Morris, Mr Assange’s partner, said he had appeared “very unwell” at the weekend but she hoped the looming legal hearing would be the last hurdle.

The High Court is to hear an appeal against the January decision not to extradite Mr Assange to face charges relating to WikiLeaks' publication of secret military files over concerns that he would be a suicide risk in a US prison.

Mr Hrafnsson said a Yahoo News investigation last month, which alleged that the CIA plotted in 2017 to abduct or kill Mr Assange, was “one of the strongest arguments” for denying the appeal.

“It is unthinkable that the High Court will come to any other decision but to uphold the magistrates' court decision. Anything else is totally unacceptable,” he said on Monday.

“It would be such a stain on the system in this country, that I certainly hope there will be enough pressure and realisation of how devastating it would be for this country if somehow the judge comes to the decision of reversing the magistrates' court decision.”

“One of the strongest arguments I think based on the latest revelations of the 'kill, kidnap' story by Yahoo News is the fact that it is the CIA who can dictate and demand that a prisoner of the US system is put into isolation by whatever they deem as national security grounds.

“So, the scenario is this: Julian, if extradited, his fate will be in the hand of the agency who was drawing up plans to kill or kidnap him. That’s unthinkable.”

At a media briefing, Ms Morris said she was looking forward to the end of the court case.

“The UK courts have to decide whether they can possibly extradite to the country that has plotted to murder him. We hope that this will be the end of it,” she said.

“I saw Julian on Saturday morning in Belmarsh Prison and I was quite taken aback by how thin he was. He was wearing a T-shirt so I hadn’t seen his arms for … for a long time. So I could see how thin he’s got.

“He was looking very unwell but, you know, there have been such important developments in the case over the past three months I’d say that we both hope that this will be the end of it.”

The US government will on Wednesday begin the appeal.

Washington said it was “extremely disappointed” by District Judge Vanessa Baraitser's decision, which was made on the grounds of Mr Assange being a suicide risk.

It will argue that the judge “didn't appreciate the weight” of expert evidence that said he was not at risk of taking his own life and that the judge was “misled” by relying on evidence presented by Mr Assange's psychiatric expert.

Mr Assange, 50, was arrested in Britain in 2019 for jumping bail after spending seven years inside the Ecuadorean embassy in London to evade extradition to Sweden to face allegations of sexual assault, which were later dropped.

Despite his extradition being blocked, he has been refused bail pending the outcome of the appeal over fears he would abscond and is being held at London's high-security Belmarsh Prison.

He is wanted in Washington to face 18 charges relating to the 2010 release by WikiLeaks of 500,000 secret files detailing aspects of military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.

If convicted in the US, he faces a maximum sentence of 175 years in jail.

Updated: October 25th 2021, 4:08 PM