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Julian Assange’s wife Stella arrives at court as protesters stage rally demanding release of Wikileaks founder at start of appeal against his extradition to the US


Julian Assange‘s wife has arrived outside the High Court as her husband begins his two-day legal war against extradition to the US.

The WikiLeaks founder is wanted in America over an alleged conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information following the publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. 

Assange, 52, is facing up to 175 years in jail for espionage – meaning if he is extradited and convicted in the States, he would likely die behind bars.

Dozens of protesters have gathered outside London‘s Royal Courts of Justice ahead of the first day of Assange’s appeal hearing – with the Wikileaks founder’s wife, Stella thanking crowds during an impassioned speech.

Activists were seen waving Australian flags, holding placards with the words ‘Free Julian Assange’ and ‘drop the charges’, and chanting ‘there is only one decision – no extradition’ and ‘US, UK, hands off Assange’.

Assange’s wife Stella, joins supporters of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange outside the Royal Courts of Justice

Dozens of protesters gathered outside the High Court to support Julian Assange today

Dozens of protesters gathered outside the High Court to support Julian Assange today 

The Wikileaks founder is appearing in court for a two-day hearing which will determine whether he will be extradited to the US

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gestures from the window of a prison van as he is driven out of Southwark Crown Court in London on May 1, 2019

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gestures from the window of a prison van as he is driven out of Southwark Crown Court in London on May 1, 2019

The support comes just days after Assange’s wife warned her husband ‘will die’ if he loses his appeal and is extradited to America

‘The situation is extremely grave. He could be on a plane within days,’ Stella said, adding, ‘His health is in decline, mentally and physically. His life is at risk every single day he stays in prison, and if he’s extradited, he will die.’ 

Mrs Assange spoke to protesters outside of court today. Also taking to the stand in support of her husband was former Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn. 

‘We have two big days ahead. We don’t know what to expect, but you are here because the world is watching,’ she  told the crowd. ‘They have to know they can’t get away with this. Julian needs his freedom and we all need the truth.’

Thanking protesters, she added: ‘Please keep on showing up, be there for Julian and for us, until Julian is free.’ 

Assange’s legal battles began in 2010, and he subsequently spent seven years holed up in Ecuador’s embassy in London before he was dragged out and jailed in 2019 for breaching bail conditions. He has been held in a maximum-security jail in southeast London ever since, even getting married there.

Assange, 52, is facing up to 175 years in jail for espionage - meaning if he is extradited and convicted, he would likely die behind bars.

Assange, 52, is facing up to 175 years in jail for espionage – meaning if he is extradited and convicted, he would likely die behind bars.

Protesters from as far as Australia joined Tuesday's demonstration outside the London court

Protesters from as far as Australia joined Tuesday’s demonstration outside the London court

Ms Assange spoke to protesters outside of court, having previously warned her husband 'will die' if he is extradited to America

Ms Assange spoke to protesters outside of court, having previously warned her husband ‘will die’ if he is extradited to America 

Julian Assange, who faces espionage charges and up to 175 years in jail, pictured with his wife Stella

Julian Assange, who faces espionage charges and up to 175 years in jail, pictured with his wife Stella 

Britain finally approved his extradition to America in 2022 after a judge initially blocked it because concerns about his mental health meant he would be at risk of suicide if deported.

His lawyers will try to overturn that approval at a two-day hearing in front of two judges in what could be his last chance to stop his extradition in the English courts.

They will argue that Assange’s prosecution is politically motivated and marks an attack on free speech, as the first time a publisher has been charged under the U.S. Espionage Act.

At the start of the hearing on Tuesday, two judges were told that Assange is being prosecuted for an ‘ordinary journalistic practice’.

Edward Fitzgerald KC, for Assange, said: ‘He is being prosecuted for engaging in ordinary journalistic practice of obtaining and publishing classified information, information that is both true and of obvious and important public interest.’

The barrister said at the outset of the hearing that the Wikileaks founder is not attending the hearing as he is unwell.

Father of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, John Shipton arrives at the High Court in London

Father of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, John Shipton arrives at the High Court in London

Campaigners showing their support massed outside the court in their dozens with posters

Campaigners showing their support massed outside the court in their dozens with posters 

Julian Assange's father John Shipton outside the Royal Courts Of Justice in London, ahead of a two-day hearing in the extradition case of his son

Julian Assange’s father John Shipton outside the Royal Courts Of Justice in London, ahead of a two-day hearing in the extradition case of his son

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was among those speaking on Tuesday outside of court

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was among those speaking on Tuesday outside of court

Other campaigners travelled from across the globe to show their support. Jodie Asard flew from Adelaide , Australia, with her son to support Assange’s appeal case.

Ms Asard said: ‘We’ve come over from Australia to stand with our brothers and sisters here and to represent Australia and to make sure that the Australian Government knows that 88 per cent of Australians want Julian Assange free and to be brought home.

‘It’s probably the trial of the century to be honest in regards to free speech, free press and our right to know, so that’s why I’m here to stand with Julian and all these people here to call for him to be completely, safely released.’

Ms Asard added that the way Assange had been kept in a ‘three-by-two metre cell’ in Belmarsh prison was ‘criminal’.

‘He is being abused, in my opinion, institutionally abused by our Western governments,’ she added.

A speaker on a stage outside the court welcomed protesters to the ‘most important freedom of speech case in the 21st century’.

He was greeted with cheers and claps from the crowd of protesters.

Tim Dawson, deputy general secretary at the International Federation of Journalists, then took to the stage. 

He said: ‘Be under no illusions, if this prosecution is successful, other vital cases will never come to light.’

Stella Assange is surrounded by protesters ahead of her husband's court case in London

Stella Assange is surrounded by protesters ahead of her husband’s court case in London 

Dozens of protesters carrying placards and gold ribbons marched on the Royal Courts of Justice

Dozens of protesters carrying placards and gold ribbons marched on the Royal Courts of Justice 

A group of Assange supporters hold their placards demanding he is freed outside the court on Tuesday morning

A group of Assange supporters hold their placards demanding he is freed outside the court on Tuesday morning 

One of the posters by a support is pictured outside the court on Tuesday morning

One of the posters by a support is pictured outside the court on Tuesday morning 

On a stage Mrs Assange (pictured centre) thanked protesters and said: 'Please keep on showing up, be there for Julian and for us, until Julian is free.'

On a stage Mrs Assange (pictured centre) thanked protesters and said: ‘Please keep on showing up, be there for Julian and for us, until Julian is free.’

‘Free Julian Assange, support journalism and safeguard free speech,’ he finished, to claps and cheers from the audience.

Protesters chanted ‘UK, US shame on you’ as MP for Poplar and Limehouse, Apsana Begum took to the stage outside the Royal Courts of Justice.

‘This case is about people and their power, versus the state and its imperialism,’ she said.

‘Ultimately it is about seeking justice in an all-too-often unjust world. Solidarity,’ Ms Begum finished.

The next speaker, Craig Murray, a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, said if Assange’s appeal was not granted, it would be an ‘attack on the freedom to know, an attack on the rights of every single person here and every single person around the globe’.

‘I have lost all faith in the independence of the judicial system,’ Mr Murray said.

During a briefing with reporters last week ahead of her husband’s appeal, Ms Assange said the case was ‘politically motivated’ and violates the UK-US extradition treaty which prohibits extradition for political reasons.

Activists were seen waving Australian flags, holding placards with the words 'Free Julian Assange' and 'drop the charges'

Activists were seen waving Australian flags, holding placards with the words ‘Free Julian Assange’ and ‘drop the charges’

Campaigners hold their posters outside the court ahead of Assange's two-day hearing

Campaigners hold their posters outside the court ahead of Assange’s two-day hearing 

Activists were seen waving Australian flags, holding placards with the words 'Free Julian Assange' and 'drop the charges'

Activists were seen waving Australian flags, holding placards with the words ‘Free Julian Assange’ and ‘drop the charges’

She said the ‘bogus extradition request’ would have been thrown out by the UK authorities if it was made by any country other than the US, adding she had learnt ‘not to be optimistic’ over his case.

‘Julian should never have been put in prison in the first place,’ she added. 

The couple have two children together and married in March 2022 in Belmarsh.

Ms Assange, who cried during the briefing, said her husband was ‘isolated’ in prison and spends more than 22 hours a day in confinement.

‘I am very concerned about how he’s doing. Physically, he’s aged prematurely,’ she added.

‘Julian will be put in a hole if he is extradited, there is no doubt about that. He will be put in a hole so far and deep in the ground that I don’t think I’ll ever see him again.’

Ms Assange said: 'The situation is extremely grave. He could be on a plane within days'

Ms Assange said: ‘The situation is extremely grave. He could be on a plane within days’

If his appeal is unsuccessful, Ms Assange said her husband would apply to the European Court of Human Rights for a Rule 39 order to stop extradition while it considers his case. 

Assange’s campaign against extradition is supported by human rights and journalistic organisations across the world. 

At the briefing at the Royal Over-Seas League, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson said the extradition would set a precedent that has ‘dark and serious implications for press freedom all around the world’.

The Icelandic investigative journalist said: ‘We are seeing a critical attack on press freedom worldwide. It is like a disease – an anti-press pandemic creeping up on us that has been incrementally taking shape over the years.

‘And in that sense Julian Assange has been canary in the coal mine.’

Rebecca Vincent, director of campaigns at Reporters Without Borders, said there had been a lot of ‘unhelpful noise’ and ‘misconceptions’ surrounding the case.

She said: ‘We defend Julian Assange because of his contributions to journalism.

‘We believe this case has a lot of implications for journalism and press freedom around the world.’

Ms Vincent said the US espionage act lacks a ‘public interest defence’ and could be applied to ‘anyone publishing stories based on leaked documents’.

Stella Assange with Wikileaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson

Stella Assange with Wikileaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson

Assange is wanted in the US over an alleged conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information following the publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. He denies any wrongdoing.

In a January 2021 ruling, then-district judge Vanessa Baraitser said he should not be sent to the US, citing a real and ‘oppressive’ risk of suicide, while ruling against him on all other issues.

US authorities brought a successful High Court challenge against this decision, paving the way for extradition.

In June last year, Assange lost his appeal against a judge’s ruling over whether he should be extradited but make his final appeal in the High Court this week.



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