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A London court must decide whether Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, will be extradited to the United States

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is due to appear at the High Court in London on Monday, which could result in him being sent to the United States to face espionage charges, or giving him another chance to appeal his extradition.

The outcome will depend on how much weight judges give to assurances from U.S. officials that Assange’s rights will not be violated if he goes to trial.

In March, two judges rejected the bulk of Assange’s arguments but said he could take his case to the Court of Appeal unless the United States guaranteed he would not face the punishment of dead if extradited and would enjoy the same free speech protections as a U.S. citizen.

The court said that if Assange, who is an Australian citizen, could not rely on the First Amendment, then his extradition would be inconsistent with the European Convention on Human Rights, which also guarantees freedom of expression and protection of the press.

The United States has provided these assurances, even though Assange’s legal team and supporters say they are not good enough to rely on to send him to the U.S. federal court system.

The United States, for example, has said Assange could seek to rely on First Amendment rights and protections, but that the decision on that would ultimately be up to a judge. In the past, the United States has said it would argue at trial that he was not entitled to constitutional protection because he was not a U.S. citizen.

“The United States has limited itself to crude and crude language asserting that Julian may ‘seek to vindicate’ the First Amendment if he is extradited,” said his wife, Stella Assange. “The diplomatic note does nothing to alleviate our family’s extreme distress regarding their future: their grim hope of spending the rest of their lives in solitary confinement in a U.S. prison for publishing award-winning journalism.”

Assange, 52, was indicted on 17 counts of espionage and one count of misuse of a computer following the publication on his website of a trove of classified US documents almost 15 years ago . US prosecutors say Assange encouraged and aided the United States. Military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steals diplomatic cables and military files released by WikiLeaks.

His lawyers say he faces up to 175 years in prison if convicted, although U.S. authorities have said any sentence would likely be much shorter.

Assange’s family and supporters say his physical and mental health suffered during more than a decade of legal battles, including taking refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London from 2012 to 2019. He spent the last five years in a high security British prison.

Assange’s lawyers claimed in February that he was a journalist who exposed wrongdoing by the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sending him to the United States, they said, would expose him to politically motivated prosecution and risk a “blatant denial of justice.”

The US government said his actions went far beyond those of a journalist gathering information and put lives at risk in his attempt to solicit, steal and indiscriminately publish classified government documents.

If Assange prevails on Monday, it would pave the way for an appeal process that could prolong what has already been a long legal saga.

If the court accepts the US’s word, it would mark the end of Assange’s legal action in the UK, although it is unclear what would immediately follow.

His legal team is ready to seek intervention from the European Court of Human Rights. But his supporters fear Assange could potentially be transferred before the court in Strasbourg, France, stays his deportation.

The court could also postpone the delivery of its decision.

If he loses in court, he may still have another chance at freedom.

President Joe Biden said last month he was considering a request from Australia to drop the case and let Assange return to his home country.

Officials provided no further details, but Stella Assange said it was “a good sign” and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the comment was encouraging.


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