On Tuesday 9 February 2021, a spokesman for the US Department of Justice confirmed that it intended to appeal against the decision of a UK court ordering the discharge of Julian Assange in extradition proceedings brought by the US. Mr Assange is requested by the US to stand trial on 18 counts relating to the unauthorised attainment and disclosure of national defence information and computer intrusion in connection with the publication by Wikileaks of secret US military information beginning in 2009.
On 4 January 2021, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser, sitting at the Central Criminal Court, refused the US extradition request and ordered Mr Assange’s discharge on the grounds that extradition would be oppressive by reason of his mental condition. In particular, the District Judge was satisfied, taking into account the risk of Mr Assange being subject to Special Administrative Measures in the US, that the risk of him committing suicide if extradited was substantial.
On Monday 8 February 2021, the Freedom of the Press Foundation published a letter, co-signed by twenty-four civil liberties and human rights groups, urging the Biden administration to abandon efforts to extradite Mr Assange. The Crown Prosecution Service, on behalf of the US DoJ had applied for leave to appeal on 19 January 2021, but the letter was timed for release in advance of this Friday’s deadline for the US to file details of their grounds of appeal. Once those grounds have been filed, Mr Assange’s legal team will have ten days to respond, at which point the High Court will consider whether to grant permission to appeal.