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Julian Assange denied US extradition appeal

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Julian Assange was on Monday denied permission to appeal to the UK Supreme Court against moves to extradite him to the United States, where he could face a lifetime in prison.

Washington wants to put the WikiLeaks founder on trial in connection with the publication of 500,000 secret military files relating to the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The ruling brings the long-running legal saga in the UK courts closer to a conclusion, unless Assange’s lawyers launch a challenge on a separate point in the case.

In January last year, the 50-year-old Australian appeared to have won a reprieve on the grounds he was a suicide risk if he was kept in solitary confinement at a maximum security US facility.

But the US government appealed, and at a two-day appeal hearing in October its lawyers pointed to diplomatic assurances that Assange would not be held in punishing isolation at a federal supermax prison, and would receive appropriate care.

Approving that appeal, two judges accepted the new assurances, noting they were not unusual in such cases and “solemn undertakings offered by one government to another”.

Assange appealed that ruling and in January two judges allowed him to apply to the country’s highest court on “points of law of general public importance”.

But a spokeswoman for the court said: “The Supreme Court has refused permission to appeal… as the application didn’t raise an arguable point of law”.

She added: “The parties were informed this afternoon.”

WikiLeaks wrote on its Twitter account: “The case now moves to @UKHomeSecretary Priti Patel to authorise the extradition.”

– Cause celebre –

Assange’s legal team said they will make representations to Patel as she considers whether to allow or block the extradition.

It also indicated it could launch further appeals on other points in the case.

“No appeal to the High Court has yet been filed by him in respect of the other important issues he raised previously,” his lawyers Birnberg Peirce Solicitors said in a statement.

“That separate process of appeal has, of course, yet to be initiated.”

The case has become a cause celebre for media freedom, with Assange’s supporters accusing Washington of trying to muzzle reporting of legitimate security concerns.

Assange is wanted to face trial for violating the US Espionage Act by publishing military and diplomatic files in 2010.

He could face up to 175 years in jail if found guilty, although the exact sentence is difficult to estimate.

He has been held on remand at a top-security jail in southeast London since 2019, for jumping bail in a previous case accusing him of sexual assault in Sweden.

That case was dropped but he was not released from prison after serving time for breaching bail on the grounds he was a flight risk in the US extradition case.

Assange’s fiancee Stella Moris, a former member of his legal team who is the mother of his two young sons, announced at the weekend the couple will marry on March 23.

The UK authorities have previously given permission for the couple to marry at Belmarsh prison, with just four guests and two witnesses — as well as two security guards — in attendance.

Assange spent seven years at Ecuador’s embassy in London to avoid being removed to Sweden but was arrested when the government changed in Quito and his diplomatic protection was removed.

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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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