Assange's fate in Priti Patel's hands
NEC member Tim Dawson reports on developments in Julian Assange's case.
Julian Assange came a step closer to extradition today, when chief magistrate Paul Goldspring sent his case to the Home Secretary to consider. At a procedural sitting of Westminster Magistrates on 20 April 2022, the chief magistrate said that there was no scope for new evidence or arguments at this stage, but that a further appeal was possible.
Assange appeared by video link from Belmarsh prison. Wearing a light, formal jacket, orange tie, jeans and a white shirt, he spoke only to confirm his name and date of birth. He appeared slightly slumped and slow to respond.
The magistrate told Assange that his legal team would have four weeks to provide Home Secretary, Priti Patel, with fresh evidence, and that thereafter an appeal could be possible on the aspects of the original case that Judge Baraitser originally dismissed. The remaining legal process could easily take a further year.
Assange is fighting extradition to the US to face charges, mostly under the Espionage Act relating to the leaking and publishing of the Afghan and Iraqi war logs. He has been held in Belmarsh prison for over three years.
Speaking after the hearing, Assange’s finance, Stella Moris told supporters: “If Julian is extradited, the UK will be in breach of its own treaty with the United States. This is clearly a political case. Priti Patel should free Julian at once”.
Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also spoke to protestors outside the court. He told them:
"There is still a chance for this Government to do the right thing, bring this case to a close, and free Julian Assange. I call on them to do that at once".
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:
“This Government seems confused about press freedom. It promises legislation to make SLAPPs more difficult, but is allowing this extradition to continue, when it is clear that the US is trying to prosecute Julian Assange for actions that are commonplace for journalists the world over”.