US Government wins right to expand its appeal for Julian Assange’s extradition

 Holly Bancroft 

The US Government has been allowed to expand its appeal against a ban on Julian Assange’s extradition to America by the High Court.Julian Assange wearing a uniform: G.BRETAÑA-ASSANGE - AP© AP


In a win for the US, the High Court decided on Wednesday that a former judge’s decision stopping the extradition over health fears could be challenged.

Representatives of the US Government had argued that Julian Assange would be able to “resist suicide” if he was extradited to an American prison.

District Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled last year that there was a real risk Assange would try to commit suicide if sent to the US.

But the US are now trying to challenge that assessment and are applying to get the medical evidence of Neuropsychiatry expert Michael Kopelman dismissed or given a low weighting.

Professor Kopelman, of Kings College London, concluded last year that Assange had autism, recurring depression and was at high risk of suicide if extradited.

On Wednesday, Lord Justice Holroyde granted the US permission to challenge Judge Baraitser’s earlier decision on the basis that she had attached too much weight to the evidence of Professor Kopelman after he “misled” the court.

He said it was “very unusual” for an appeal court to have to consider the evidence of an expert, who had been found to have “misled” the court. Adding that it was “at least arguable” that the judge erred in basing her conclusions on the professor’s evidence in those circumstances.

Clair Dobbin QC, for the US, told the High Court that there is a “need for anxious scrutiny” of Assange’s reported mental health.

She added: “ It really requires a mental illness of a type that the ability to resist suicide has been lost.

“Part of the appeal will be that Mr Assange did not have a mental illness that came close to being of that nature and degree.”

Ms Dobbin argued that the Neuropsychiatry expert had misled Judge Baraitser during the original extradition proceedings by “concealing” the fact that Assange had fathered two children during his time in the embassy until March 2020, when he “chose to deploy that information in support of his bail application.”

Speaking from the steps of the High Court in London, Julian Assange’s partner described him as “an innocent man accused of practising journalism”.

Assange is wanted in the US on allegations of a conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information. The WikiLeaks founder published hundreds of thousands of leaked documents on his site that related to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

Stella Morris, who has two children by Assange, told his supporters: “ [The US Government] is exploiting the inherently unfair extradition arrangements with this country in order to arbitrarily prolong his imprisonment. ”

Some of the grounds for appeal – relating to Assange’s medical assessment – were already rejected in an earlier hearing in July, however the US Government is now arguing for their reinstatement.

Former Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, who was also at the protest outside the High Court, said that the US government and opponents of Julian Assange should “wind their necks in” and allow him to go free.

Mr Corbyn described Assange as a reporter “in the tradition of fearless journalism” who had highlighted “a truth that was embarassing to the US”.

Assange is currently being held in London’s HMP Belmarsh.

::Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email in the UK


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