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    Assange hopes for his last chance in court


    The legal tug-of-war over the extradition of the Wikileaks founder from Great Britain, as demanded by the US judiciary, has been going on for years. Now things could happen very quickly.

    At a crucial court hearing on the extradition of Julian Assange to the USA, the Wikileaks founder's lawyers presented their arguments. The 52-year-old, who has been in the high-security Belmarsh prison in London for almost five years, was unable to attend the trial for health reasons, his lawyer said.

    For Assange, the two-day hearing at the High Court in the British capital is the last hope of preventing his extradition to the USA before the British courts. He is hoping for a full appeal hearing, which he has so far been denied. If he fails, legal recourse in Great Britain would be exhausted

    Assange faces 175 years in prison in the USA

    The US government wants to put the Australian on trial in the USA on espionage charges. If convicted there, he could face up to 175 years in prison. Washington accuses him of having, together with whistleblower Chelsea Manning, stolen and published secret material from US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, thereby endangering the lives of US informants. The US side is expected to present its arguments tomorrow, Wednesday.

    Assange's lawyers argued, among other things, that Assange was being prosecuted for a “normal journalistic activity, obtaining and publishing secret information”, the content of which was true and obviously of great public interest. He is also a political prisoner whose extradition is prohibited by the agreement between the USA and Great Britain.

    Hundreds of supporters gather in court

    Assange's wife Stella appeared composed as she arrived at the court hearing in London. She thanked the several hundred supporters who gathered outside the neo-Gothic Royal Courts of Justice in central London, calling for her husband's release with banners and chants of “Free Julian Assange Now.” “Julian needs his freedom, and we all need the truth,” she shouted to the people. Assange's supporters also demonstrated elsewhere, for example in Berlin and Melbourne.

    It is not yet clear when exactly a decision will be made on the appeal. However, it is expected that it will not be announced immediately after the hearing has ended, but rather with a delay. However, Stella Assange fears that her husband could be put on a plane to the United States within days, as she told reporters in London last week.

    Stella Assange fears for her husband's life

    If his appeal in London were rejected, Assange's only option would be to go to the European Court of Human Rights. Stella Assange announced that his team would immediately file an application for an interim injunction to prevent immediate extradition. However, there are concerns that the British government could ignore such an order. She fears for his life because of the harsh prison conditions expected in the USA and her husband's unstable psyche.

    The risk of suicide was also the reason why a judge initially rejected extradition. But the decision was later overturned.

    Appeals for release also from Germany

    Human rights organizations and journalists' associations around the world are campaigning for the 52-year-old's release. Shortly before the start of the hearing in London, the chairwoman of the German Journalists' Union (dju), Tina Groll, called for an end to the prosecution. By rejecting the US extradition request, the British judiciary could send an “unmistakable signal for basic democratic values,” said Groll.

    “Wikileaks played a significant role in ensuring that the world public learned the dirty side of the US war missions,” emphasized the federal chairman of the German Journalists' Association, Mika Beuster. “Julian Assange deserves awards for this, not imprisonment.”

    Assange also hopes for a political solution

    Before his arrest in April 2019, Assange had evaded law enforcement authorities for several years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. They initially targeted him because of rape allegations in Sweden. However, these allegations were later dropped due to lack of evidence.

    In addition to success in the legal tug-of-war, Assange hopes for a political solution. The Australian government is now campaigning for the release of its citizen. Just last week, the Australian Parliament passed a resolution calling on the US and Britain to end the prosecution of Assange. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese emphasized that the matter had been dragging on for too long. However, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has repeatedly rejected calls for an end to law enforcement.

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