It was Julian Assange’s 49th birthday on 3 July. He did not have much to celebrate being incarcerated in in the high-security HMP Belmarsh for more than a year facing extradition to the United States where he has been indicted under the Espionage Act for Wikileaks’ 2010-11 publications of the Iraq War Logs, the Afghan War Diaries, and State Department cables. But he would have cheered to know that on that day 40 press freedom groups and journalist organisations wrote to the Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor (with a copy to Dominic Raab MP Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) calling for the British Government to release the Wikileaks founder and to block his extradition to the US. The charges against Julian carry a potential maximum sentence of 175 years in prison.
Julian Assange was too ill to attend the latest court hearing in his extradition case at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 1 June. The hearing which is described as procedural, heard from Julian’s barrister, Edward Fitzgerald QC that his client did not appear by video link because he was unwell. The court had previously heard that Mr Assange had received medical advice that using the prison facility could raise his risk of coronavirus infection.
On 23 January in an adjournment debate in the House of Commons on the UK-US Extradition Agreement, David Davies, the Conservative MP for Haltemprice and Howden opened as follows: “Since we agreed the UK-US extradition treaty in 2003, it has been abundantly clear that the British Government of the day struck a truly dreadful deal—asymmetric, sometimes ineffective and often unfair on British citizens. Countless examples down the years have shown that, from the NatWest three to Christopher Tappin, from Gary McKinnon to Anne Sacoolas, the person charged with causing the death by dangerous driving of Harry Dunn. We now risk yet another serious miscarriage of justice with the US extradition request for Dr Mike Lynch, a successful and entrepreneurial British businessmen…”