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Julian Assange has been given a reprieve in his fight against extradition to the US at the High Court in London. In a written statement handed down on Tuesday morning, the president of the king’s bench division, Dame Victoria Sharp and Mr Justice Johnson said that the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange would be able to bring an appeal on three grounds (out of the nine submitted by the defence), unless the court received suitable assurances by the Biden administration.

These assurances are that Mr. Assange, an Australian citizen, would be protected by and could rely on the First Amendment – which protects freedom of speech in the US; that he would not be “prejudiced at trial” due to his nationality; and that he would not face the death penalty if  convicted.

The judges gave the US authorities three weeks to make those assurances, with a final hearing scheduled for Monday 20 May:

But the court refused to allow Mr. Assange to appeal on the grounds that the US was prosecuting him for his “political opinions,” that extradition would violate his right to a fair trial, and that extradition would violate his right to life or expose him to cruel and inhuman treatment.

The court also rejected Assange’s request to include “fresh evidence” related to alleged evidence that CIA Director Mike Pompeo and other CIA officials drew up plans to kidnap or kill Mr. Assange while he was living in Ecuador’s London embassy under diplomatic asylum.

At last month’s two-day hearing reported on this blog on 18 February, Mr. Assange’s lawyers argued that he faced a “flagrant denial of justice” if extradited to the US to face charges relating to the publication by Assange and WikiLeaks of thousands of classified and diplomatic documents they said had exposed torture, rendition, extrajudicial killings and war crimes.

If the judges had denied Mr. Assange permission to appeal he could have been extradited within days to face espionage charges in the US.

Commenting on hearing the judgement Stella Assange, expressed dismay at the judges’ decision. “What the courts have done has been to invite a political intervention from the United States … send a letter saying ‘it’s all OK’,” she said. “I find this astounding. The Biden administration should not issue assurances. They should drop this shameful case that should never have been brought.”

The decision was, however, welcomed by the International Federation of Journalists who said that the decision potentially granting Assange’s appeal gave British courts a last chance to safeguard public interest journalism:

It was also welcomed by Michelle Stanistreet NUJ general Secretary who said that the reprieve was clearly preferable to an extradition that would have taken place in the coming days, although the risks to Assange and press freedom remain stark:

Meanwhile three years ago Sir David Davis MP for Haltemprice and Howden in Yorkshire, told Declassified UK that the British legal establishment was“blinkered” to the one-sidedness of the UK/US extradition treaty under which the prosecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is being heard. A former chair of the Conservative Party who served as Brexit minister in 2016-18, he described the treaty as “massively asymmetric” and said the judge, Vanessa Baraitser, “got the law wrong” by claiming the treaty included political crimes. Parliament made clear in terms that it would not cover political crimes,” he said.

The only circumstances in which alleged crimes with a political ingredient could be pursued under the treaty was when violence was involved, Davis insisted. He has raised the case, which has serious implications for human rights and press freedom – and in the view of Davis, a leading Brexiteer, British sovereignty – as a matter of urgency in the House of Commons.

The east Yorkshire MP has been prevented from tabling a motion for debate in the Commons on the grounds that it would breach subjudice rules even though Assange’s case is being heard by a judge alone with no jury potentially liable to be influenced by outside pressure.

Recently the Guardian reported that the  Wall Street Journal had indicated that the US government was considering a plea deal offer to Julian Assange allowing him to admit to a misdemeanour, but his lawyers say they have been “given no indication” Washington intends to change its approach: