Biden could negotiate a plea deal to shore up his flagging support from the left.

by Bill Blum, The Progressive

The British High Court of Justice in London has given WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange a significant reprieve in his fight against extradition to the United States on charges of espionage. In a sixty-six-page judgment issued on March 26, a two-judge panel stopped short of granting Assange outright permission to appeal the extradition order signed in 2022 by the British Home Secretary. But the panel held that permission will be granted unless the U.S. provides assurances that if Assange is sent to the United States, he will be “permitted to rely on the First Amendment, that [he] . . . is not prejudiced at trial (including sentence) by reason of his nationality, that he is afforded the same First Amendment protections as a United States citizen, and that the death penalty is not imposed.”

In the British legal system, such appeals are discretionary, and require the approval of the High Court to move forward. The panel gave the United States until April 16 to lodge its assurances.

Julian Assange

Given the U.S. Supreme Court’s First Amendment case law, it is doubtful the Biden Administration’s Department of Justice (DOJ) will be able to meet the panel’s conditions. While the DOJ is not seeking the death penalty (though it is technically available under the Espionage Act of 1917) and can readily claim that Assange will be afforded all the due process trial protections given to American citizens, it will not be able to satisfy the panel’s First Amendment concerns. Under established Supreme Court precedent, the First Amendment does not apply to foreign citizens outside the United States and its territories. The DOJ is bound by that precedent.

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