Updated June 17 2022
Julian Assange’s brother says his appeal in the UK will include claims of a bid to assassinate him.
The wife of Julian Assange has vowed to fight using every possible legal avenue after UK Home Secretary Priti Patel approved the WikiLeaks’ founder’s extradition to the United States to face criminal charges.
Assange is wanted by US authorities on 18 counts, including a spying charge, relating to WikiLeaks’ release of vast troves of confidential US military records and diplomatic cables which its officials say had put lives in danger.
His supporters say he is an anti-establishment hero who has been victimised because he exposed US wrongdoing in conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that his prosecution is a politically motivated assault on journalism and free speech.
His wife Stella said Assange would appeal after the Home Office said his extradition had been approved as UK courts had concluded it would not be unjust or an abuse of process.
“We’re going to fight this. We’re going to use every appeal avenue,” Stella Assange told reporters, calling the decision a “travesty”.
“I’m going to spend every waking hour fighting for Julian until he is free, until justice is served.”
His brother, Gabriel Shipton, told Reuters the appeal would include new information not previously taken to the courts, including claims made in a report last year of plans to assassinate him.
“It will likely be a few days before the (14-day appeal) deadline and the appeal will include new information that we weren’t able to bring before the courts previously. Information on how Julian’s lawyers were spied on and how there were plots to kidnap and kill Julian from within the CIA,” Shipton said.
He was referring to a Yahoo News report from September 2021 on alleged US plans to kidnap or assassinate Assange when he was holed up in Ecuador’s embassy in London.
The CIA has declined to comment on the report.
Originally, a UK judge ruled Assange, 50, should not be deported, saying his mental health meant he would be at risk of suicide if convicted and held in a maximum security prison.
But this was overturned on an appeal after the US gave a package of assurances, including a pledge he could be transferred to Australia to serve any sentence.
The Home Office said the courts had not found that extradition would be incompatible with his human rights, including his right to a fair trial and to freedom of expression, and that he would be treated appropriately.
The Australian-born Assange has been involved in a legal fight in the United Kingdom for more than a decade and it could now go on for many more months.
He has 14 days to appeal to London’s High Court, which must give its approval for a challenge, and he could ultimately seek to take his case to the United Kingdom Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights.
“We’re not at the end of the road here,” Stella Assange said, calling Patel’s decision “a dark day for press freedom and for British democracy”.
Nick Vamos, the former head of extradition at Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service, said verdicts were regularly overturned by the High Court.
Assange would be able to claim again it was politically motivated and use new evidence, such as his allegations the CIA had plotted to assassinate him.
“I think he might get some traction,” Vamos told Reuters.
Assange and his supporters argue that he is being punished for embarrassing those in power and faces 175 years in prison if found guilty, although the US lawyers have said it would be more like four to six years.
The Australian government said it would continue to tell the UK and US that the case had “dragged on for too long and should be brought to a close”.
The legal saga began at the end of 2010 when Sweden sought Assange’s extradition from the UK over allegations of sex crimes.
When he lost that case in 2012, he fled to the Ecuador’s embassy in London, where he spent seven years.
When he was finally dragged out in April 2019, he was jailed for breaching UK bail conditions although the Swedish case against him had been dropped.
He has been fighting extradition to the US since June 2019 and remains in jail.
During his time in the Ecuadorian embassy he fathered two children with his now wife, who he married in Belmarsh high-security prison in London in March at a ceremony attended by just four guests, two official witnesses and two guards.
Shipton on Friday said the decision set a dangerous precedent and urged US President Joe Biden’s administration to drop the charges.
“UK government and judiciary at the highest level has found that if you publish evidence of corruption, war crimes and torture in the UK you may be extradited to a third country,” Shipton said.
“It is now up to President Biden to drop this prosecution and restore faith in the ability of the fourth estate to play their role in functioning democracies.”
Australian Associated Press