WikiLeaks founder Assange faces his last legal roll of the dice in Britain to avoid US extradition

LONDON — Julian Assange’s lawyers opened a final U.K. legal challenge Tuesday to stop the WikiLeaks founder from being sent to the United States to face spying charges, arguing that American authorities are seeking to punish him for exposing serious criminal acts by the U.S. government.

Lawyer Edward Fitzgerald said Assange may “suffer a flagrant denial of justice” if he is sent to the U.S. At a two-day High Court hearing, Assange’s attorneys are asking judges to grant a new appeal, his last legal roll of the dice in Britain.


Assange himself was not in court. Judge Victoria Sharp said he was granted permission to come from Belmarsh Prison for the hearing, but had chosen not to attend. Fitzgerald said the 52-year-old Australian was unwell.

Stella Assange, his wife, said Julian had wanted to attend, but that his health was “not in good condition.”

“He was sick over Christmas, he’s had a cough since then,” she told The Associated Press. She said The WikiLeaks founder was following proceedings through his lawyers.

Assange’s family and supporters say his physical and mental health have suffered during more than a decade of legal battles, including seven years in self-exile in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and the last five years in the high-security prison on the outskirts of the British capital.

He has been indicted on 17 charges of espionage and one charge of computer misuse over his website’s publication of classified U.S. documents almost 15 years ago. American prosecutors say Assange helped U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal diplomatic cables and military files that WikiLeaks later published, putting lives at risk.

To his supporters, Assange is a secrecy-busting journalist who exposed U.S. military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan. They argue that the prosecution is politically motivated and he won’t get a fair trial in the U.S.

Hundreds of supporters holding “Free Julian Assange” signs and chanting “there is only one decision – no extradition” held a noisy protest outside the neo-Gothic High Court in London. Rallies were also held in cities around the world, including Rome, Brussels and Berlin.

“If Julian Assange is successfully extradited to the U.S., journalists the world over are going to have to watch their back,” said Simon Crowther, legal advisor to human rights group Amnesty International.

Stella Assange told the crowd the case was about “the right to be able to speak freely without being put in prison and hounded and terrorized by the state.”

Referring to the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who died in prison last week, she said: “What happened to Navalny can happen to Julian, and will happen to Julian if he is extradited.”

Stella Assange, who married the WikiLeaks founder in prison in 2022 — said last week that his health has deteriorated during years of confinement and “if he’s extradited, he will die.”

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