Assange decision a “hammer-blow to free expression”
Court rules that the Wikileaks founder can be extradited to US to face espionage charges.
Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, has condemned the ruling in favour of the extradition of Julian Assange, handed down at the Royal Courts of Justice today. She said:
“For Julian Assange to be extradited to answer charges for cultivating a source and encouraging the revelation of criminality would be a hammer-blow to free expression. Any journalist who thought they might upset a US administration will reasonably fear that they too could be targeted by a judicial snatch squad. When the freedom of our judiciary is under threat, it is disappointing that senior judges should buckle in the face of such unconvincing US blandishments.”
Lord Justice Holroyde told the court that he was satisfied by assurances given by the United States government that if Assange is convicted, he would be allowed to serve his sentence in Australia, and would receive appropriate medical and psychological care while awaiting trial.
This reverses the ruling handed down in January that found that Assange’s extradition would be ‘oppressive’, given the Wikileaks founder’s history of mental health issues.
Lord Justice Holroyde, speaking on behalf of the Lord Chief Justice, who also sat in this case, directed that the case should be returned to Westminster Magistrates, from whence it should pass to the Secretary of States to order the extradition.
The case is far from over, however. Assange could now appeal the original ruling that dismissed his claims that extradition was contrary to his right to free speech and was inconsistent with the Extradition Treaty. It is also possible that Assange could challenge the most recent ruling in the Supreme Court.
Michelle Stanistreet said:
“The case against Julian Assange raises the gravest concerns about free expression. If we allow the unmasking of injustice to be criminalised, a fundamental check on executive overreach will be undermined – to the detriment of us all.”