Corbyn joins Assange supporters as US appeal against decision not to extradite WikiLeaks founder

A High Court appeal hearing is under way over the decision not to extradite Julian Assange to the US.

In January, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled that the WikiLeaks founder, 50, should not be sent to the US to face espionage charges because he would be at high risk of suicide.

But on Wednesday, US authorities are appealing against the decision as they seek to extradite him over allegations of a conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information.

Julian Assange pictured in January 2020
Image:Julian Assange, pictured in January 2020, is wanted in the US

Assange’s supporters, including former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, gathered outside the court on Wednesday ahead of the hearing.

Mr Corbyn described Assange as a reporter “in the tradition of fearless journalism” and insisted the only thing he had done through his work was to highlight “a truth that was embarrassing to the US”.

He was applauded by protesters who shouted “free Julian Assange” and “jail the war criminals” as uniformed police looked on.

Assange has received high profile support from several celebrities over the years, including Pamela Anderson and Dame Vivienne Westwood.

More on Julian Assange

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A protester is pictured outside Assange's hearing
Image:A protester is pictured outside Assange’s hearing

The charges against him come after WikiLeaks published hundreds of thousands of documents about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The 50-year-old has been held at HMP Belmarsh in southeast London since 2019 after being removed from the UK’s Ecuadorian embassy for breaching his bail conditions.

He went there in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden to face sex offence allegations, which he denied and were eventually dropped.

Assange's partner Stella Moris outside court
Image:Assange’s partner Stella Moris outside court

Ahead of the hearing, Assange’s partner Stella Moris visited him in prison on Tuesday and appealed to US President Joe Biden to drop the case.

“The US government is exploiting the inherently unfair arrangement between the US and the UK,” she said.

“They are exploiting the inherently unfair extradition arrangements with this country in order to arbitrarily prolong his imprisonment. The imprisonment of an innocent man accused of practising journalism.”

“For every day that this colossal injustice is allowed to continue Julian’s situation grows increasingly desperate.”

What is Julian Assange accused of?

Julian Assange, an Australian national, is currently being held at HMP Belmarsh in London pending an appeal by the US to extradite him there.

He was imprisoned in 2019 after seven years inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he sought asylum to avoid being extradited to Sweden on sex abuse charges.

When Ecuador revoked his asylum he was arrested for skipping bail.

The Swedish charges – one of rape and one of molestation – were eventually dropped, but he remains in prison as the US still want to try him for espionage over his WikiLeaks activity in 2010.

Here, Sky News looks back at the legal charges Assange has faced:

November 2010: Sweden orders an arrest warrant for Assange accusing him of two sexual assault allegations. Assange is arrested in the UK on a European Arrest Warrant, but is freed on bail

June 2012: Assange’s final appeal against Swedish extradition is rejected and he seeks asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London

May 2017: Sweden discontinues its investigation, claiming proceedings are impossible while he is inside the embassy

April 2019: Ecuador revokes Assange’s asylum and he is carried out of the embassy, arrested and taken to HMP Belmarsh. He is sentenced to 50 weeks in prison for skipping the bail from his 2010 case

June 2019: The US Justice Department formally asks the UK to extradite Assange over his 2010 WikiLeaks publications

November 2019: Sweden drops their case completely, citing a lack of evidence and too much time passing since the alleged offences

January 2021: Judge rules that Assange should not be extradited to the US citing a high suicide risk

August 2021: The US appeals at the High Court in a bid to extradite Assange

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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