WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s legal team said Wednesday that the United Kingdom’s High Court had granted permission to the U.S. government to appeal an earlier decision that blocked Assange’s extradition.
The court reportedly granted the appeal “on a limited basis” and on “narrow, technical grounds,” and did not set a date for a future court hearing.
The ruling led to intensified calls by Assange’s supporters for his release from Her Majesty’s Prison Belmarsh, where he has been held for more than two years following seven years in isolation at the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he claimed asylum.
The High Court’s decision “means he is still at risk of extradition where he faces a 175-year prison sentence and…is certain to lose his life if he is extradited,” said Stella Moris, Assange’s partner.
District Judge Vanessa Baraister ruled at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in January that Assange should not be extradited to the U.S., where the government is pursuing Espionage Act charges against him for his publication of military and diplomatic documents, on the grounds that Assange was at “substantial” risk for committing suicide in the “harsh conditions” of the U.S. prison system.
Baraister’s ruling led to calls for the U.S. to end its pursuit of Assange—which has been called a threat to press freedom all over the world by international rights groups including Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders, and the Freedom of the Press Foundation—but U.K. authorities continued his detention at Belmarsh pending the Biden administration’s appeal.
“The U.S. government should have accepted the Magistrates’ Court’s decision—instead, it keeps this case going,” Moris told reporters Wednesday.
Reporters Without Borders reiterated its demand for Assange’s freedom following the High Court ruling.