Assange created 'grave risk' to US agents in war zones, lawyers argue

By John Mercury February 22, 2024

Julian Assange “created a grave and imminent risk” to American agents overseas when his WikiLeaks website published classified US documents, lawyers have argued.

As Assange makes a final attempt under UK law to avoid being extradited to the United States, barristers for the American government said he went a “considerable way beyond” the role of a journalist in gathering information.

Lawyer Clair Dobbin told the High Court that innocent people, many of whom “lived in war zones or under repressive regimes”, could have been harmed.

Assange’s supporters say he is a hero who is being persecuted for exposing US wrongdoing.

The High Court will hear Julian Assange's final appeal against being sent to the US
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Julian Assange in 2017. Pic: PA

But American prosecutors allege the 52-year-old WikiLeaks founder encouraged and helped US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to steal diplomatic cables and military files that his site published.

On the second day of a two-day hearing, Ms Dobbin said Assange was “not someone who just set up an online box to which people can provide classified information”.

She added: “The allegations are that he sought to encourage theft and hacking that would benefit WikiLeaks.”

Ms Dobbin also rejected claims that charges against him are a “tool of oppression” to punish Assange for his political opinions.

Rather, she said, the prosecution is based on law and evidence.

Assange “indiscriminately and knowingly published to the world the names of individuals who acted as sources of information to the US”, Ms Dobbin said.

“It is these facts which distinguish him, not his political opinions.”

Assange, who is detained in London’s Belmarsh Prison, was absent from court on both days because he is unwell, according to WikiLeaks. His wife Stella said he had wanted to attend but was “not in good condition”.

Protesters outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, during a hearing in the extradition case of the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange
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A pro-Assange demonstrator outside the Royal Courts of Justice

The appeal follows a judge’s ruling in January 2021 that Assange could not be extradited because of his risk of suicide in a US prison.

But that decision was later overturned after America gave additional assurances.

Ms Dobbin said those assurances “wholly undermine this suggestion that anything could happen to him”.

Assange’s lawyers are asking for the go-ahead to challenge the original judge’s dismissal of other parts of his case to prevent his extradition.

If he succeeds, his case will go to a full appeal. If he loses, he could take his fight to the European Court of Human Rights.

A High Court ruling on his future is not expected until March at the earliest.

Read more:
Assange’s new court battle explained
Fugitive or hero? A timeline of Assange’s legal fight
Acid to destroy expensive art if Assange dies in prison

Yesterday, Stella Assange said her husband had not done anything wrong and his “life is at risk” every day he is in prison.

“If he is taken to the US he will never be a free man again,” she told Sky News.

“He will not survive it. The US wants to put him in the deepest, darkest hole of the US prison system for publishing the truth.”

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