The legal dispute between the imprisoned Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and the USA entered a new round this Wednesday. A new hearing begins in a court in London over the United States’ objection to an earlier judgment. Supporters are calling for the immediate release of the 50-year-old Australian who has been incarcerated in the UK for more than two years. Assange is expected in person for the appointment.
The US judiciary has accused the Australian of having stolen and published secret material from US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan together with whistleblower Chelsea Manning. He put the lives of US informants in danger. His supporters, however, see him as an investigative journalist who brought war crimes to light. If convicted in the USA, he faces up to 175 years in prison.
USA insist on extradition
The Old Bailey Criminal Court in London rejected a US extradition request in January because of Assange’s poor mental health and the expected prison conditions in the United States. Assange was not released because the US appealed. This was allowed, but not all of the reasons given by the Americans were accepted.
The US is now trying to be right on the remaining points. Specifically, it is about the assessment of the responsible judge that Assange is mentally and physically in bad shape. Observers consider the decision on these questions to be indicative for the further course of the procedure.
Assange’s supporters call on US President Joe Biden’s administration to stop the case against the Wikileaks founder. “It is absolutely clear that the US government should drop the allegations. The Biden government cannot defend freedom of the press while continuing this case,” Assange’s partner Stella Moris told the UK news agency PA.
The managing director of the journalists’ organization Reporters Without Borders, Christian Mihr, told the German Press Agency: “In the end, this is also decisive for the credibility of the USA.” They finally announced that they would return to the world stage. Observers assume that the proceedings could otherwise drag on for further instances and thus possibly for months or even years.
Immediate release requested
Reporters Without Borders and Assange’s support network are calling for the 50-year-old to be released immediately. The London High Court rejected such a request in January. “From our point of view there is no reason to lock him up,” said Mihr. Assange had previously lived in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for years. In 2019, however, the South American country withdrew his protection and left him to the British authorities. In the meantime he has also lost his Ecuadorian citizenship.