CPJ Welcomes UK High Court’s Delay On Assange Extradition, Calls On US To Drop Charges

By Committee To Protect Journalists

Photos: YouTube Screenshots

Washington, D.C., March 26, 2024—The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the British High Court’s Tuesday ruling, which could allow Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to contest his extradition to the United States.

According to the court’s decision, the U.S. government has three weeks to give assurances that Assange will be able to rely on First Amendment rights of the U.S. Constitution and to confirm whether he would be subjected to the death penalty. If the U.S. fails to provide proper assurances, Assange will be granted permission to appeal his extradition.

The next hearing is scheduled for May 20. The U.S. assurances must be filed by April 16, according to the court documents.

“We are glad that the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States will be delayed,” said CPJ CEO Jodie Ginsberg, in New York. “His prosecution in the U.S. under the Espionage Act would have disastrous implications for press freedom. It is time that the U.S. Justice Department put an end to all these court proceedings and dropped its dogged pursuit of the WikiLeaks founder.”

In 2019, U.S. prosecutors indicted Assange on 17 criminal charges under the Espionage Act and a separate charge under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) in connection to WikiLeaks’ publication of thousands of leaked military and diplomatic documents. Assange’s lawyers have said that Assange faces up to 175 years in prison although U.S. prosecutors have said the sentence would be much shorter.

In 2021, the U.K. High Court ruled that Assange should be extradited, and that decision was approved by the government in June 2022.

Assange’s legal team separately submitted an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in December 2022 and launched a case against Britain at the ECHR, seeking to stave off his extradition to the U.S. should he exhaust his appeals in U.K. courts.

The Wall Street Journal reported on March 20 that the Justice Department is considering whether to allow a plea deal for Assange, in which the Wikileaks founder would plead guilty to a reduced charge of mishandling classified information. However, the article noted, the discussions remain in flux.

Assange has been held in the U.K.’s Belmarsh prison since Ecuadoran officials revoked his asylum status in their London embassy, allowing British police in to arrest him on April 11, 2019.

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