High Court grants Julian Assange permission to appeal extradition to the United States

  • 20 May 2024

The National Union of Journalists has welcomed the High Court’s judgment granting Julian Assange victory in his case requesting leave to appeal extradition to the United States.

In March, Assange was granted provisional leave to appeal as judges sought assurances from US officials including on grounds that he could rely on the first amendment and would not receive the death penalty. In their ruling on 20 May, Dame Victoria Sharp and Mr Justice Johnson determined there is an arguable case that Assange could be discriminated against, because an American prosecutor has confirmed that the first amendment might not cover foreigners in matters of national security. 

The Australian national has been imprisoned for over five years at HMP Belmarsh, both the NUJ and International Federation of Journalists have stressed the harmful ramifications to journalists and journalism if his extradition is permitted. In March Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, called once more for a US plea deal urging officials to reach agreement and end the dogged process to extradite.

The NUJ has previously warned of grave harm to media freedom and free expression should the US be allowed to prosecute Assange on charges including those under the Espionage Act. Today’s judgment granting permission to appeal means Assange can continue to oppose efforts by US authorities through UK courts.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

“At this crucial juncture, this judgment serves as a positive step forward for Assange and for every journalist seeking to reveal truths through their reporting. With each passing day, the US government’s relentless pursuit contributes to Assange’s worsening health whilst displaying a disregard for practices adopted by journalists globally, during their investigative journalism. We welcome today’s judgment and hope it is the first step in victory for Assange. The Department of Justice can still seize the opportunity to end this legal battle and the chilling impact his extradition would have.

“The suggestion that free-speech protections that apply to US citizens should not apply to a foreign national is outrageous. It is quite right that the British court has decided that these questions require further, and far deeper examination. Better still would be for President Biden to discontinue this prosecution, and make clear that the US is a friend of free expression, not its enemy.”

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