After the US received limited permission last month to appeal a UK district judge’s decision that banned Julian Assange’s extradition, London’s High Court’s holding a preliminary hearing Wednesday concerning the US legal challenge, prompting scores of protesters to gather in central London to Assange’s release, Daily Express reports.
UK district judge rejected in January 2021 the US request to extradite the WikiLeaks founder to the US to face espionage charges, underlining that he’d be exposed at too high a risk of suicide or self-harm if he were to be extradited to the US.
If extradited and convicted in the US, Assange faces a total sentence of up to 175 years in prison in connection with multiple espionage charges.
Amnesty International called on US President Joe Biden on Tuesday to drop the “politically motivated” charges against Assange, with AI Europe Director Nils Muižnieks underscoring that US attempt to reverse the extradition ban based of new diplomatic assurances is a ‘blatant legal sleight of hand’.
Assange is locked up in Her Majesty’s maximum-security prison Belmarsh in London since April 2019 after the Ecuadorian government revoked its offer of asylum and remained there even after the extradition ban in January and all his applications for bail or a release into house arrest have been denied.
Protesters, joined by British former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, demand Assange to be released, pointing to the fact that FBI witness Sigurdur Ingi Thordarson admitted that he fabricated his testimony to gain immunity.
The Swiss law professor and UN Special Rapporteur Nils Melzer believes that Assange’s imprisonment and the conditions of his imprisonment are neither justified nor proportional, calling them a case of cynical maneuvering since if he ends up in an American high-security facility with same conditions, there would no longer be any justification for the extraditing ban.
It’s more than obvious that the credibility of British justice system is badly undermined by the Assange case, as Christian Mihr of the German branch of the NGO Reporters without Borders is convinced, noting at the same time that he has no doubt this is not a criminal, but a political trial and that the US, as he says, needs to back off.