On 20th April 2022, Westminster Magistrates’ Court formally approved the extradition of Julian Assange to the US on espionage and computer misuse charges, and sent his case to the Home Secretary Priti Patel.
On 15th March 2022, the Supreme Court remitted Assange’s case back to the Magistrate’s, and rejected, for failing to raise an arguable point of law, Assange’s application for appeal against the High Court on grounds relating to the conditions in which he would be detained in custody if extradited.
The Home Secretary must now decide upon this matter within 2 months, per section 99 of the Extradition Act 2003 (‘the Act’). Mr Assange’s legal team can make representations directly to the Home Secretary not to order his extradition, which she is obliged to take in account, and can also appeal to the High Court against the decisions of the District Judge and the Home Secretary (once made). The Home Secretary, per section 93 of the Act, has a very narrow discretion not to order extradition once the case has been sent to her, none of which appear to apply to Mr Assange’s case.
Therefore, Mr Assange’s best route for challenging his extradition is likely to be to appeal the District Judge’s original decision, January 2021, on the grounds in which he lost – including that he is wanted for a political offence and that he cannot receive a fair trial in the US – in addition to any new grounds that have emerged since that decision. If Mr Assange’s application in the High Court is unsuccessful, he may then apply to the Supreme Court. Should Mr Assange wait for the Home Secretary’s decision, he can then apply to appeal both decisions and in which case the appeals would then run as one.
As always, the extradition process is not as straight forward as it may seem, and should Mr Assange’s legal team pursue the appeal, it could easily take another six months for this matter to be resolved.