Assange, 50, is accused by American authorities of helping a former intelligence analyst obtain classified information before publishing the information on WikiLeaks for anybody to access, a series of actions U.S. prosecutors say endangered national security and the lives of sources who were named in the documents.
The High Court in London ruled last year that the assurances given by U.S. authorities were sufficient to guarantee that Assange would be treated humanely, overturning a lower court ruling that concluded sending Assange to the United States would be “oppressive.” Assange appealed the latest ruling several days later.
In a decision released Monday, the high court said Assange can appeal to the UK Supreme Court, but only if the court agrees.
“The respondent’s application to certify a point of law is granted,” the judges said in their pronouncement.
They said the issue of whether the High Court could rely on U.S. assurances about Assange‘s treatment, which had not been given in the initial proceedings, was a subject on which his legal team could seek clarification.
“Whether or not the issue needs ventilation in that court is a matter appropriately for its decision. We would respectfully invite the Registrar of the Supreme Court to take steps to expedite consideration of any application for leave to appeal which follows.”
Assange has 14 days to submit an application to the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court decides not to hear his appeal, the extradition can be approved by the home secretary, whose decision can also be subject to legal challenge.
“Make no mistake: we won today in court,” Stella Moris, Assange’s fiancée, told reporters.
“Our fight goes on, and we will fight this until Julian is free,” she added.
The Committee to Protect Journalists said in a statement that it welcomed the ruling while reiterating its position, shared by other civil rights groups, that U.S. prosecutors should drop all charges against Assange.
The founder of WikiLeaks is described by Amnesty International as the first publisher to be charged under the Espionage Act. Supporters say WikiLeaks’ publishing of the classified document trove is protected by U.S. and international law.
U.S. authorities have defended the charges, claiming Assange is not a journalist.
“This [was] made plain by the totality of his conduct as alleged in the indictment—i.e., his conspiring with and assisting a security clearance holder to acquire classified information, and his publishing the names of human sources,” John Demers, the U.S. assistant attorney general for national security, told reporters in 2019
Tom Ozimek and Reuters contributed to this report.