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Julian Assange’s hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, which takes place on 20 and 21 February will consider an appeal against the UK’s decision to extradite him, and a previous ruling by Judge Baraitser in January 2021 which rejected arguments presented by Assange’s legal team on why he must not be extradited. These included that Assange’s prosecution would violate his right to free speech and that a fair trial would not be possible. It is his last chance to avoid extradition to the United States and strike a blow for press freedom and in defence of whistleblowing.The Free Assange Campaign is organising a protest outside the court at the Strand from 8.30am on both days of the hearing at which hundreds of supporters are expected to attend.

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) with the European and International Federations of Journalists (EFJ/IFJ) have called for all charges against Assange to be dropped, noting the chilling effect his possible 175-year sentence would have on journalists. The IFJ and EFJ, representing nearly 200 journalists unions’ and associations, have opposed Assange’s extradition since the publication of the US incitements under the US Espionage Act

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, condemned the “UK’s complicity through its approval of his extradition” highlighting “journalists have voiced their disbelief at wider ramifications for journalism and the ability to publish public interest stories involving the US government if their dogged pursuit continues any longer.”

Dominique Pradalié, IFJ president says: “I have twice met with Julian Assange in Belmarsh and it is clear to me that he has suffered grievously for far too long. In April he will have spent five years in a British prison despite having been convicted of nothing. The actions for which the US is seeking prosecution are clearly journalistic. The conviction of Julian Assange would threaten us all”.

Maja Sever, EFJ president said: “Journalists and their unions have recognised since the outset that Julian Assange is being targeted for carrying out tasks that are the daily work of many journalists – seeking out a whistle-blower and exposing criminality. We stand with journalists of every political persuasion and nationality and say that Assange should be freed at once”.

If Assange’s application is upheld, then a full appeal will be heard later in the year. A hearing at the European Court of Human Rights is also possible, although such hearings are at the discretion of that Court, and are rarely granted.

The charges against Assange relate to Wikileaks publication in 2010 of the Iraq and Afghan War Logs. These provided an extraordinarily detailed account of US military actions between 2004 and 2009. The logs included episodes such as that now known as the ‘Collateral Murder’ video, in which US soldiers in a helicopter gunned unarmed civilians, killing 12. The US accuses Assange of obtaining this footage by means that violate the Espionage Act.

Meanwhile supporters of Julian Assange have welcomed the call by Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Thursday for the United States and Britain to end their legal pursuit of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.The Australian Prime Minister was speaking in parliament after backing a motion last week calling for the case against Mr Assange, an Australian citizen, to be dropped. Mr Albanese said the country as a whole shared the view that “enough is enough.”

He said it was time for an end to the prosecution so that Mr Assange could return to his family in Australia. “This thing cannot just go on and on and on indefinitely,” he said. More at: