From Consortium News
Julian Assange's lawyers are considering bringing a cross appeal to the High Court in London disputing parts of District Judge Vanessa Baraitser's Jan. 4 judgment not to extradite Assange to the United States, according to a report by journalist Tareq Haddad.
Baraitser refused the U.S. request on narrow grounds, saying Assange's extradition would put his life and health at risk. But Baraitser sided with the U.S. on every other point of law and fact, making it clear that in the absence of the life and health issues she would have granted the U.S. request.
That opens the way for the U.S. government to seek the extradition of other persons, including journalists, who do the same things as Assange did, but who cannot rely on the same life and health issues.
It also means that if the U.S. wins the appeal it filed last Friday in High Court it can try Assange in the U.S. on the Espionage Act charges that went unchallenged by Baraitser. If Assange's lawyers counter the U.S. appeal with one of their own in the High Court against Baraitser's upholding of the espionage charges, it would be heard simultaneously with the U.S. appeal.
Stella Moris, Assange's partner, has written that Assange's lawyers are indeed considering a cross appeal:
"The next step in the legal case is that Julian's legal team will respond to the US grounds for appeal. Julian's lawyers are hard at work. Julian's team has asked the High Court to give them more time to consider whether to lodge a cross appeal in order to challenge parts of the ruling where the magistrate did not side with Julian and the press freedom arguments. A cross appeal would provide an opportunity to clear Julian's name properly.
"Although Julian won at the Magistrates' Court, the magistrate did not side with him on the wider public interest arguments. We wanted a U.K. court to properly quash the extradition and refute the other grounds too. We wanted a finding that the extradition is an attempt to criminalize journalism, not just in the U.S. but in the U.K. and the rest of the world as well; and that the decision to indict Julian was a political act, a violation of the treaty, a violation of his human rights and an abuse of process. Julian's extradition team is considering all these issues, and whether they can be cross-appealed."
The Question of a Political Offence
During Assange's extradition hearing, the prosecution and the defence clashed about whether the court should adhere to the U.S.-U.K. extradition treaty or the Extradition Act, which made the treaty part of British law.
Article 4 of the treaty prohibits extradition for a political offence, as British law for centuries has done. The Act mysteriously omitted this. Assange's attorneys clearly argued for the treaty to be followed, but Baraitser cited the Act.
In his article, Haddad pointed to comments by British MP and former Cabinet Minister David Davis to the House of Commons on Jan. 21.
Davis, who as the Conservatives' shadow home secretary played a central role in the parliamentary debates which resulted in the 2003 Extradition Act becoming law, told the House of Common s:
"Although we cannot, of course, discuss the substance of the Assange judgment here today, the House must note the worrying development more generally in our extradition arrangements - extradition for political offences. This stems from an erroneous interpretation of Parliament's intention in 2003. This must now be clarified.
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