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Court decides this Monday (20) whether Assange will be able to appeal extradition

A hearing at which Julian Assange will find out whether he can file a final appeal against his extradition to the United States is underway, but the WikiLeaks founder is not present.

A few dozen pro-Assange supporters gathered in front of the Royal Court of Justice in London this Monday (20), with some flags bearing the message “Let him go, Joe”, a reference to US President Joe Biden .

There is also a strong police presence and many international media outlets present.

Assange is wanted by US authorities on espionage charges related to the publication of thousands of confidential documents and diplomatic cables from his organization between 2010 and 2011. He will spend the rest of his life behind bars if convicted.

Two High Court judges – Victoria Sharp and Jeremy Johnson – could decide to uphold the UK government's extradition decision in 2022, allow Assange to appeal or even release him, according to his wife, Stella Assange, who added that ” Anything could happen at this stage.”

“Julian is just one decision away from being extradited. If the judges rule against him on Monday, there will be no further avenues of appeal in the UK,” she told reporters at a meeting organized by the Foreign Press Association in London last week.

If the Supreme Court rules against Assange, it could try to prevent his extradition by requesting an emergency injunction – known as Rule 39 – from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

Assange's team has said it intends to make such a request, if necessary, after court proceedings in the UK have concluded, in a bid to prevent Assange from being put on a plane to the US.

In March, the court delayed its extradition decision as judges sought a series of assurances, including from the US that it would not seek the death penalty for the 52-year-old Australian citizen.

WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson described Assange's case and the court case as “fraud” to reporters last Wednesday. “This is institutional corruption at the judicial level. Julian Assange is a political prisoner,” he said.

It's been 12 years since the Australian lived freely.

Assange spent the last five years in the high-security Belmarsh prison in London and almost seven years before that, hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy in the English capital, trying to avoid arrest. He claims his extradition is politically motivated.

Recently, there have been more “encouraging” signs that Assange's years-long legal saga could soon come to an end, according to Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

The leader said last month that the WikiLeaks founder “has already paid a significant price” and there was “nothing to be gained” from his continued imprisonment. In February, the Australian parliament passed a motion calling for Assange to be released in his home country.

Albanese's remarks came a day after US President Joe Biden said his government was considering dropping charges against Assange following a request from Australia.

Stella Assange said the Australian government's measures to support her husband recently had been “crucial.” Responding to a question from CNN she added that the Assange case was a “headache” for the US.

“It was brought into the Trump administration and the constitutional implications are clear,” she said. “There was a recent letter from 40 law professors at US universities writing to the Biden administration saying this case is an existential threat to the First Amendment.”

Several experts have expressed concern that allowing Assange's extradition could have broader implications for freedom of expression and the press.

Sunna Ævarsdóttir, rapporteur for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, recently visited Assange in Belmarsh prison in London. After her visit, she told the CNN who had deep concerns for the welfare of the Australian.

“He seemed very focused, and he's intent on winning this case, but obviously there's a weight, the uncertainty of it all,” she said.

She added that assurances provided to the court by the US that Assange could rely on his First Amendment rights did not seem very credible as officials often declared them “unavailable to foreign citizens.”

“In this respect, it is not something that should be accepted as a guarantee,” he added.

Alan Rusbridger, editor of the British magazine Prospect Magazine, wrote in an article for CNN that working with Assange was “often a bumpy ride” but that their collaboration while he was still editor-in-chief of the Guardian was “groundbreaking.”

He added that the US case seems “a long overdue attempt to punish whistleblowers and discourage journalists, mainstream or otherwise, from poking their noses where they are not welcome.”

Source: CNN Brasil

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