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UK court opens way for Assange to appeal US extradition

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High Court gives the US additional time to give ‘satisfactory assurances’ that WikiLeaks founder will face a fair trial.

A UK court has ruled that Julian Assange should have the chance to appeal an order to extradite him to the US.

The High Court in London ruled on Tuesday that the WikiLeaks founder must have the right to challenge the British government’s June 2022 extradition order, unless the United States provides within three weeks assurances that he would receive a fair trial and would not face the death penalty.

At the same time, the court rejected Assange’s bid for an appeal based on the claim that the case against him is politically motivated.

The ruling suggests that the legal wrangling, which has been ongoing for more than a decade, will continue. Assange, who was not present in court to hear the ruling, has been detained in London’s Belmarsh Prison since he was arrested in 2019.

US prosecutors are seeking to put the 52-year-old on trial on 18 counts, all bar one under the Espionage Act, over WikiLeaks’s release of confidential US military records and diplomatic cables.

Assange’s lawyers in February sought permission to challenge the United Kingdom’s approval of his extradition to the US, arguing his prosecution was politically motivated.

In their ruling, two senior judges said the Australian citizen had a real prospect of successfully appealing against extradition on a number of grounds.

The court said in its written ruling that as a non-US national, Assange arguably would not be able to rely on the First Amendment right of free speech, and could later be charged with a capital offence. That, it said, could mean it would be unlawful to extradite him.

Judges Victoria Sharp and Jeremy Johnson gave Washington three weeks to provide fresh assurances over concerns that he could be “prejudiced at trial” because he is not a US citizen and that he could face the death penalty if convicted.

If those assurances are not forthcoming, then Assange will be granted permission to appeal, the ruling said.

A further hearing has been scheduled for May 20, meaning that Assange cannot be extradited immediately. His campaign team had warned that could have happened, depending on the ruling.

‘Highly nuanced’

Though offering Assange the possible chance to appeal, the court rejected the WikiLeaks founder’s appeal bid on the basis that the case was politically motivated or that he would not receive a fair trial.

Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull, reporting from London, suggested: “It was a highly nuanced decision in the end.

“The judges haven’t thrown out the grounds for an appeal hearing, they have essentially upheld them. They basically said, ‘Yes, we understand that there is a basis here for an appeal – however, we are going to defer a decision on that until May 20’, when they called for a second hearing,” Hull said.

WikiLeaks published an extract from the ruling that lists the “satisfactory assurances” the US must provide for Assange’s extradition to be granted.

The court has given US Gov 3 weeks to give satisfactory assurances: That Mr. Assange is permitted to rely on the First Amendment to the US constitution; not prejudiced at trial by reason of his nationality; and that the death penalty is not imposed #FreeAssange pic.twitter.com/Wt2VaiPUUg

— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) March 26, 2024

“The court has given US Gov 3 weeks to give satisfactory assurances: That Mr. Assange is permitted to rely on the First Amendment to the US constitution; not prejudiced at trial by reason of his nationality; and that the death penalty is not imposed,” it wrote.

The US argues that WikiLeaks’s revelations imperilled the lives of agents and that there is no excuse for Assange’s criminality.

The Australian’s supporters hail him as an anti-establishment hero who is being persecuted for exposing US war crimes.

The US has retorted that the charges are for “indiscriminately and knowingly” publishing sources’ names and not his political opinions.

Should Assange eventually lose this latest appeal bid, he will have exhausted all UK appeals and would be set to enter the extradition process.

However, his team has previously indicated they will ask the European courts to intervene.

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Al Jazeera and news agencies

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‘Obvious’ Sydney mall killer targeted women, Australian police say

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New South Wales Police commissioner says videos of the attack ‘speak for themselves’.

Australian police have said they believe a man who fatally six stabbed people at a busy Sydney shopping centre specifically targeted women.

Five women and one man were killed on Saturday when a 40-year-old man went on a stabbing spree in the beach suburb of Bondi.

The women killed in the attack were identified as a 55-year-old designer, a 47-year-old architect and volunteer surf lifesaver, the 25-year-old daughter of an entrepreneur, a 27-year-old student from China and a 38-year-old new mother.

A 30-year-old Pakistani security guard, who reportedly tried to stop the attacker, was the only man killed in the attack.

The majority of those injured in the attack were also women.

New South Wales state Police Commissioner Karen Webb said on Monday that it was “obvious” the suspected attacker, Joel Cauchi, singled out women.

“It’s obvious to me, it’s obvious to detectives that seems to be an area of interest that the offender focused on women and avoided the men,” Webb told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

“The videos speak for themselves, don’t they? That’s certainly a line for inquiry for us.”

Webb said officers were in the process of interviewing people close to Cauchi to gain “some insight into what he might have been thinking”.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the gender breakdown of the victims was “concerning”.

“The gender breakdown is of course concerning – each and every victim here is mourned,” he told ABC radio.

Videos shared on social media showed Cauchi, wearing shorts and an Australian national rugby league jersey, targeting mostly female victims as he rampaged through Westfield Bondi Junction shopping complex.

The attack was brought to an end when police inspector Amy Scott shot him dead.

Australia’s national flag has been set at half-mast at major venues, including the Parliament House and Sydney’s Harbour Bridge, in honour of the victims.

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Al Jazeera and news agencies

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US military says it destroyed dozens of drones fired from Iran, Yemen

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US Central Command says it hit more than 80 one-way attack drones aimed at Israel.

The United States has destroyed dozens of drones and at least six ballistic missiles aimed at Israel from Iran and Yemen, its military has said.

US forces hit more than 80 one-way attack drones, including seven UAVs targeted on the ground prior to launch, US Central Command (CENTCOM) said on Monday.

“Iran’s continued unprecedented, malign, and reckless behaviour endangers regional stability and the safety of U.S. and coalition forces,” CENTCOM said in a post on X

“CENTCOM remains postured to support Israel’s defense against these dangerous actions by Iran. We will continue to work with all our regional partners to increase regional security.”

CENTCOM made the announcement after Iran late on Saturday launched its first-ever attack on Israeli territory in retaliation for a suspected Israeli attack on its embassy in Syria.

The attack involving more than 300 drones and missiles caused only modest damage as most were shot down by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system or the US and its partners.

Defense of Israel Activities Update

On April 13 and the morning of April 14, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) forces, supported by U.S. European Command destroyers, successfully engaged and destroyed more than 80 one-way attack uncrewed aerial vehicles (OWA UAV) and at least six… pic.twitter.com/QYyk01o1Vs

— U.S. Central Command (@CENTCOM) April 14, 2024

US President Joe Biden earlier praised US forces for their “extraordinary skill” in helping Israel take down “nearly all of the incoming drones and missiles.”

Biden described US support for Israel’s self-defence as “ironclad” but warned that Washington would not join any retaliatory action taken by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government against Tehran.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said US forces “remain postured to protect US troops and partners in the region, provide further support for Israel’s defence, and enhance regional stability.”

The threat of all-out war between Israel and Iran has put the region on tenterhooks, prompting calls for restraint from Middle Eastern neighbours and major powers.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Sunday warned that the Middle East was on “the brink”.

“The people of the region are confronting a real danger of a devastating full-scale conflict. Now is the time to defuse and de-escalate,” Guterres told a UN Security Council meeting convened in response to the Iranian attack.

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Al Jazeera and news agencies

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Iran claims ‘right to self-defence’ in Israel attack

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Video Duration 01 minutes 24 seconds

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Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations says his country’s drone and missile attack against Israel was ‘in the exercise of Iran’s inherent right to self-defence’. Saeid Iravani told the UN Security Council Iran is not seeking to escalate conflict in the region.

Published On 15 Apr 2024

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