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Julian Assange Extradition Decision Delayed

March 27, 2024 IN WIP
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26 March 2024: We – PEN International and the undersigned PEN Centres – renew our call to immediately free Julian Assange following today’s UK High Court’s decision to adjourn his permission to appeal his extradition order, on the grounds that his extradition would breach his right to freedom of expression, that he might be prejudiced on account on his nationality, and that he might potentially face the death penalty. The Court has given the UK and the US permission to file any assurances by 16 April and, if no assurances are filed, leave to appeal will be granted.

Journalists and publishers sometimes risk their lives to uncover truths that powerful entities seek to conceal. By recognising that the UK and the US have not provided sufficient assurances, the High Court has proven that the concerns and fears expressed by Assange, his family and his legal team are well-founded.

Yet the court rejected some of Assange’s arguments, including that his extradition was political. We remain deeply concerned by the fact that the US was granted more time to make diplomatic assurances – despite Assange facing the risk of serious human rights violations if extradited to the US – and of the dangerous prospect of Assange’s extradition going ahead.

Once again, we urge the US authorities to drop all charges against Assange and withdraw their extradition request. We further call on the UK authorities to refrain from extraditing Assange, to release him from Belmarsh prison immediately, and to ensure he is reunited with his family.

We stand unwaveringly alongside Assange and fellow publishers and journalists around the world who courageously defend truth and justice in the face of adversity.

Signed by

PEN International

English PEN

PEN Melbourne

PEN Sydney

PEN Norway

PEN Slovenia

Scottish PEN

Swedish PEN

 

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Wikileaks founder and publisher Julian Assange was arrested in April 2019 at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he had been given asylum for almost seven years. He was arrested for breaching his bail conditions in 2012 and further arrested on behalf of the US authorities under an extradition warrant for his role in obtaining and publishing classified military and diplomatic documents in 2010. In the US, Assange would face trial on 17 counts under the Espionage Act and one count under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which combined could see him imprisoned for up to 175 years.

In March 2022, the UK Supreme Court denied Assange’s request to appeal an earlier decision by the UK High Court that permitted his extradition to the US – which in turn had overturned a previous ruling by the District Court that found extradition would endanger his life. On 17 June 2022, the UK Home Secretary approved his extradition. His legal team lodged an appeal at the UK High Court. In a three-page judgment issued on 6 June 2023, the UK High Court rejected all eight grounds of Assange’s appeal against his extradition order. Assange made a renewed application for appeal to the High Court on 13 June 2023. A panel of two judges reviewed the decision on 20 and 21 February 2024. Representatives of

PEN International, English PEN and PEN Norway attended the public hearing, reiterating their call to stop the extradition of Assange.

Julian Assange, born on 3 July 1971, is the first publisher to be charged under the US Espionage Act. On 15 November 2023, PEN Norway awarded him the 2023 Ossietzky Prize for outstanding contributions to freedom of expression. He is an honorary member of several PEN Centres.

For more information about PEN International’s campaign for Julian Assange, please see please see War, Censorship and Persecution, PEN International’s Case List 2023/2024, which documents 122 cases of persecuted writers worldwide, including Assange.

For further details contact Aurélia Dondo, Head of Europe and Central Asia Region at PEN International: Aurelia.dondo@pen-international.org

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People say that (writers) are pretty powerless: we don’t have an army, we don’t have a bureaucracy. But if that were true, then why would writers be arrested?... Because the spoken word is powerful.

— John Ralston Saul on the work of PEN International