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Julian Assange can bring a new appeal against extradition to the US, the High Court in London ruled on Monday (20 May). In a short ruling by Dame Victoria Sharp and Mr Justice Johnson the WikiLeaks founder was granted permission to appeal against the order that he be sent to the US to stand trial for leaking military secrets. The decision means Mr Assange will be able to challenge US assurances over how his prospective trial would be conducted and whether his right to free speech would be infringed.

In their 20 May 2024 ruling the judges stated that there was an arguable case that Assange could be discriminated against because a US prosecutor had confirmed that the first amendment to the US constitution which protects freedom of speech and the press might not cover foreigners in national security matters The WikiLeaks founder, who is currently in Belmarsh high security Prison in south east London, will, with his lawyers, spend the next few months preparing the  appeal, which will concern whether or not the US courts will protect his right to free speech as an Australian citizen.

Speaking to supporters outside the high court after the hearing, Stella Assange said the US president, Joe Biden, was “running out of time to do the right thing” and drop the legal pursuit of her husband “We are relieved as a family that the courts took the right decision today but how long can this go on for? Our eldest son just turned seven,” she said.

“All their memories of their father are in the visiting hall of Belmarsh prison, and as the case goes along, it becomes clearer and clearer to everyone that Julian is in prison for doing good journalism, for exposing corruption, for exposing the violations on innocent people in abusive wars for which there is impunity.”

The high court decision was welcomed by the Michelle Stanistreet general secretary of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) who 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.”

Dominque Pradalie, president of the International Federation of Journalists who was in the court said: “This is a great moment for common sense and the rule of law. Julian Assange is being persecuted; the sooner these proceedings come to an end, the better.”

Many media freedom organisations are concerned that if the US government is successful in using its 1917 Espionage Act to extradite Assange, then journalists around the world could be at the mercy of extradition to the US for breaking secrecy laws there.

Mr Assange has been indicted on 17 espionage charges and one charge of computer misuse, exposing him to a maximum of 175 years in prison, over his website’s publication of a trove of classified US documents almost 15 years ago. These related to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, which included a helicopter video footage documenting the U.S. military gunning down journalists and children in Baghdad’s streets in 2007.