10 January 2024

Lawyer for Assange says Wikileaks founder’s life at risk if final appeal fails

10 January 2024

The lawyer for Julian Assange said the Wikileaks founder’s life “is at risk” if his final appeal against his extradition to the US fails.

Assange is wanted in the United States over an alleged conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information following the publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. He denies any wrongdoing.

The 52-year-old has spent the last four years in Belmarsh prison in London, where he has been since he was dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy in 2019, as he fights the United States’ attempts to extradite him.

So his life is at risk and I am not exaggerating that.

Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson, who is an international human rights lawyer, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation: “As a result of the 13 years he’s been effectively in prison or under house arrest or some form of restrictions on his liberty inside the Ecuadorian Embassy he is really unwell.

“Because of the treatment he has suffered, he suffers a major depressive illness, he has been diagnosed as being on the spectrum, and the medical evidence is if he was extradited to the United States those conditions would cause him to commit suicide.

“So his life is at risk and I am not exaggerating that.”

In a January 2021 ruling, then-district judge Vanessa Baraitser said Assange should not be sent to the US, citing a real and “oppressive” risk of suicide, while ruling against the 51-year-old on all other issues.

But US authorities subsequently brought a successful High Court challenge against this decision, paving the way for Assange’s extradition.

In June last year, Assange lost his appeal against a judge’s ruling over whether he should be extradited but he will make his final appeal in the UK High Court in February.

Ms Robinson said: “We have our final appeal against his extradition coming up in February and if we fail, if we are not given permission to appeal, that is the end of the road in the UK and he will be extradited.

“We are hoping that the European Court of Human Rights will step in. We will make an application to the European court to try to stop (his extradition) but that’s not guaranteed.”

There were several protests in the UK last year in support of Assange, including from former British ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray, who said campaigners “will never stop fighting” for Assange’s freedom.

The wife of Assange, Stella, said last year that “the stakes are very high”.

She said: “They’re high on all sides, not just for Julian’s life and his freedom, but all the press freedoms and the freedom of speech rights that go with him.”

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