by Maurizio Sacchi

At 11.30 am today, Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, was granted permission by the High Court in London to continue his appeal against extradition to the United States. The next hearing will take place on 20 May. The court ruled that Assange could pursue his appeal at a full hearing unless the US provided “satisfactory assurances” that he could invoke the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and avoid the death penalty. Assange’s legal team argued that this would be a breach of the UK-US extradition treaty, which prohibits extradition for political offences.

“This legally unprecedented prosecution seeks to criminalise the use of journalistic practices (…) and the obtaining and publishing of truthful classified information in the public interest,” said Edward Fitzgerald, Assange’s lawyer, who argued that the US government’s “exposure of crimes on an unprecedented scale”, including torture, rendition, extrajudicial executions and war crimes, had led to “state retaliation” and therefore extradition could not be granted because it was a political case. Another defence lawyer recalled that during Donald Trump’s presidency, CIA officials allegedly discussed kidnapping and even assassinating Assange.

The US argued that Assange’s leaks endangered the lives of its agents and that Assange was not being prosecuted for “mere publication”, but for “aiding and abetting” or “conspiring with” whistle-blower Chelsea Manning in illegally obtaining the documents in question, “undoubtedly committing serious crimes in doing so, and then disclosing the unclassified names of the sources (thereby putting those individuals at serious risk of harm)”. There will now be a further appeal hearing to reconsider the extradition.

On the cover photo, a mobile billboard featuring WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on it is parked at Lincoln Inn Fields in London © Karl Nesh/