A British court on Monday ruled that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can appeal a December decision permitting his extradition to the United States, where the Department of Justice is attempting to prosecute the journalist for publishing classified information that exposed war crimes.
“What happened in court today is precisely what we wanted to happen,” Stella Moris, Assange’s fiancée, said during a press conference outside the Royal Courts in central London following the decision.
“Make no mistake, we won today in court.”
“But let’s not forget that every time we win, as long as this case isn’t dropped, as long as Julian isn’t freed, Julian continues to suffer,” Moris added.
“He is suffering profoundly, day after day, week after week, year after year. Julian has to be freed, and we hope that this will soon end.
Assange has been imprisoned at a high-security London jail since 2019, under conditions that experts and rights groups have denounced as torturous and a violation of international law.
For years, Assange and his legal team have been fighting attempts by the U.S. to extradite him to face charges under the Espionage Act.
Because the charges stem from a common journalistic practice—the publication of classified information—advocacy groups have warned that the U.S. prosecution of Assange poses a severe threat to press freedoms worldwide.
“Journalism is not a crime,” British Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn, founder of the Peace and Justice Project, said Monday.
“Wikileaks exposed crimes of U.S. empire in Afghanistan, Iraq, and beyond. The perpetrators of these crimes walk free, often still prominent public figures in the U.S., U.K., and elsewhere. They should be held accountable for the lives they destroyed and the futures they stole.”
The court’s decision Monday paved the way for Assange to appeal the U.S. extradition attempt—which began under the Trump administration and has continued under President Joe Biden—before the British Supreme Court. The court must agree to accept the case before the appeal process can move forward.
Robert Mahoney, deputy executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said in a statement Monday that “we are glad that Julian Assange will be allowed to apply to appeal his extradition in the U.K.’s Supreme Court.”
“The prosecution of the WikiLeaks founder in the United States would set a deeply harmful legal precedent that would allow the prosecution of reporters for newsgathering activities and must be stopped,” said Mahoney. “We strongly encourage the U.S. Justice Department to halt extradition proceedings and drop all charges against Assange.”