This article is reproduced from Stella Assange’s Substack, with thanks.
Julian Assange’s final appeal is to be held in the high court from 20-21 February 2024.
The two-day hearing may be the final chance for Julian Assange to prevent his extradition to the United States. If extradited, Assange faces a sentence of 175 years for exposing war crimes committed by the United States in the Afghan and Iraq wars.
Immediately after the court date was announced, protestors responded by calling for a mass protest at the court on the days of the hearing at 8.30am. They welcome all those who support press freedom to join them in London and around the world.
Assange has been confined in the high-security Belmarsh prison since he was arrested on a US extradition request on 11 April 2019. This will be his fifth Christmas in Belmarsh.
The upcoming public hearing will be held before a panel of two judges who will review an earlier high court decision, taken by a single judge on 6 June 2023, which refused Mr Assange’s permission to appeal.
This decisive stage in Mr Assange’s appeals will determine one of two outcomes: whether Mr Assange will have further opportunities to argue his case before the domestic courts, or whether he will have exhausted all appeals without a possibility for further appeal in Britain and thus enter the process of extradition. An application before the European Court of Human Rights remains a possibility.
Assange’s campaign for freedom is supported by Amnesty International, the National Union of Journalists, Reporters Without Borders and virtually every civil rights, press freedom, and journalists’ union in the world. More than 70 Australian federal politicians have called on the USA to drop the prosecution.
In the United States, the number of Congressional representatives calling for the case to be dropped grows steadily; currently House Resolution 934 sponsored by Paul Gosar is gathering signatures from all sides of politics.
John Rees of the Free Assange campaign said: “The USA is attempting to convict Julian Assange under the 1917 Espionage Act. If they get away with it, they will have succeeded in redefining journalism as spying.
“Every journalist will be intimidated. Every newspaper and broadcaster will look at material critical of the government and feel significant pressure not to publish for fear of prosecution and imprisonment. This is the most important press freedom case of the 21st century and we need to ensure we don’t lose any hard-won freedoms.”
Stella Assange, Julian’s wife, who he married while in prison, and who has been campaigning relentlessly for his freedom, said: “The last four and a half years have taken the most considerable toll on Julian and his family, including our two young sons. His mental health and physical state have deteriorated significantly.
“With the myriad of evidence that has come to light since the original hearing in 2019, such as the violation of legal privilege and reports that senior US officials were involved in formulating assassination plots against my husband, there is no denying that a fair trial, let alone Julian’s safety on US soil, is an impossibility were he to be extradited.
“The persecution of this innocent journalist and publisher must end.”
WikiLeaks has also supported its founder throughout this whole process, stressing the importance of this case for press freedom. Kristinn Hrafnsson, editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, said: “There is no press without the protection to operate freely.
“Julian’s case is a landmark moment; Britain needs to decide if it wishes to be a haven for free press or if it wishes to be complicit in the degradation of a core value of our democracy. This is the last chance for judges in Britain to halt this unjust extradition of an innocent man.”
For more information about the court hearing and subsequent protest, scheduled to commence at 8.30am, and how to participate, please visit https://freeassange.org/.