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WikiLeaks US legal challenge over judge’s decision not to extradite Julian Assange reaches High Court

Assange is wanted in the US on allegations of a conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information

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Julian Assange

Julian Assange

Julian Assange

A legal challenge by the US over a judge’s decision not to extradite Julian Assange has reached the High Court.

The US government is appealing against a decision in January not to extradite the WikiLeaks founder to face espionage charges in America.

Assange is wanted in the US on allegations of a conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information following WikiLeaks’ publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

However, after a multi-week extradition hearing last year, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled that Assange should not to be sent to the US, citing a real risk of suicide.

The US government was previously allowed to appeal against the district judge’s decision on some of its grounds, which Assange’s legal team previously described as “narrow, technical grounds”.

Wednesday’s hearing is expected to be a further application by the US authorities to expand on the basis that can be used to appeal against the decision not to extradite the 50-year-old.

The preliminary hearing is due to last around two hours.

Assange has been held in Belmarsh Prison since 2019 after he was carried out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London by police before being arrested for breaching his bail conditions.

He had entered the building in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden to face sex offence allegations, which he has always denied and were eventually dropped.

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

She told the PA news agency: “This is a dark legacy that Biden is making his own unless he reverses course and that has to be done.”

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Ms Moris said her partner, who she has two children with, was a “fighter” and has battled through “some very dark moments” during his time in prison.

Wednesday’s hearing before Lord Justice Holroyde and Mrs Justice Farbey is due to start at 10.30am.

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