Julian Assange’s final fight against extradition to the US 


Welcome to Tuesday’s Early Edition from i.

It has been a while since Julian Assange has been in the headlines. WikiLeaks, which he founded, had been publishing secret documents for several years before its infamous release in 2010 of a US military video it called “Collateral Murder”. The now infamous footage showed an Apache helicopter, Crazy Horse 1-8, attacking and killing a group of Iraqi civilians, including two Reuters journalists. “What he did was 100 per cent an act of truth-telling, exposing to the world what the war in Iraq looks like and how the US military lied,” Dean Yates, the Baghdad bureau chief at the time, said . Mr Assange’s outfit went on to publish hundreds of thousands more classified documents relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, decades’ worth of US diplomatic cables, and many more. He made headlines again in 2012, when he walked into the Ecuadorian embassy in London and asked for political asylum, after losing a fight against extradition to Sweden as part of a rape investigation. He was never put on a plane. Instead, he ended up in Belmarsh prison where he awaits a much bigger extradition case – to the US. There he faces 17 counts of espionage and one charge of computer misuse, and a maximum prison term of up to 175 years. His case has sparked condemnation and fears a dangerous precedent could be set. Today he begins a two-day High Court case appealing his extradition, in what is likely his final chance to challenge the ruling. Last year, Labour’s Richard Burgon said: “Any extradition would, in effect, be putting press freedom on trial.” We’ll take a look at why, after the headlines.

 Today’s news, and why it matters

A Russian-state owned agency dubbed ‘Putin’s personal bailiff’ that is pursuing dissidents in Britain’s courts must face sanctions, MPs and activists have told i. Bill Browder, a British-American businessman and friend of Alexei Navalny, said sanctions against the Deposit Insurance Agency were “long overdue”.

Labour will commit to the future of the triple lock on the state pension in its general election manifesto, i understands. The party is set to confirm that if it is elected, it will continue to increase the state pension each year by the same level as inflation, average earnings growth or 2.5 per cent – whichever is highest.

Lord David Cameron said he hoped the Falkland Islands would wish to remain British “possibly forever” as he became the first foreign secretary to visit the South Atlantic territory in 30 years. The former prime minister embarked on a high-profile tour of the islands amid fresh calls from Argentina for talks about their future.

Left-wing Labour activists are ramping up pressure on the party to back an ‘immediate ceasefire’ in Gaza ahead of parliamentary vote on the ongoing conflict. Campaign group Momentum is launching a “lobbying blitz” urging voters to push their MP into supporting a Scottish National Party motion calling for an end to the fighting.

A former Post Office chairman has accused Kemi Badenoch of making “an astonishing series of claims” and mischaracterisations after she told MPs that he had been investigated over bullying allegations. The row between Henry Staunton and the Business Secretary deepened on Monday after he claimed over the weekend that he had been told to stall compensation payouts for postmasters affected by the Horizon scandal to allow the Tories to “limp into” the coming election.

A baby and his two siblings who were found dead at a Bristol home have been named by police. Nine-month-old Mohammed Bash, his brother Fares, seven, and three-year-old sister Joury were discovered inside a property in the Sea Mills area of the city on Sunday.

Four key questions on Assange’s High Court case:

What charges does he face? The 52-year-old faces 18 charges, including accusations of violating the Espionage Act. The 2019 indictment includes one count of conspiracy to hack a computer to disclose classified information that “could be used to injure” the US. The charges, released during Donald Trump’s administration, allege he “conspired” with whistleblower Chelsea Manning by helping her crack a Defence Department computer password that provided access to a US government network that stored classified information and communications. The US Department of Justice previously described the leaks as “one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States”. Lawyers for US authorities said the information had put named individuals in Afghanistan and Iraq at “risk of serious harm, torture or even death”. Assange denies any wrongdoing and has said the files exposed serious abuses by US armed forces, and has maintained that the case against him is politically motivated. You can read the indictment here.

Who is calling for the case to be dropped? Last April, 35 British parliamentarians called for extradition proceedings to be dropped in a letter to the US attorney general Merrick Garland. At the time Labour MP Richard Burgon said: “British parliamentarians are increasingly alarmed by the potential extradition of Julian Assange to the United States. Any extradition would, in effect, be putting press freedom on trial. It would set a dangerous precedent for journalists and publishers around the world.” Signatories to the letter included Conservative MP David Davis, Caroline Lucas of the Green Party, Jeremy Corbyn, Angus MacNeil of the Scottish National Party and Liz Saville-Roberts of Plaid Cymru. Many other human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have called for the charges to be dropped. Earlier this month, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Alice Edwards, urged the UK to halt his extradition. She said : “Julian Assange suffers from a long-standing and recurrent depressive disorder. He is assessed as being at risk of committing suicide. If extradited, he could be detained in prolonged isolation while awaiting trial, or as an inmate.” His wife, Stella Assange, said recently: “His health is in decline, mentally and physically. His life is at risk every single day he stays in prison, and if he’s extradited, he will die. But it’s not just about being extradited. Julian should never have been put in prison in the first place.”

Could he return to Australia? This has been the hope of many Australian MPs, including the Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who recently voted for the US and UK to allow Mr Assange back to Australia. A vote on the matter last week, which easily won support, was hailed as “an unprecedented show of political support for Mr Assange by the Australian parliament”. Independent MP Andrew Wilkie said: “We’ve just about run out of time to save Julian Assange”. Mr Albanese told parliament last week: “People will have a range of views about Mr Assange’s conduct. But regardless of where people stand, this thing cannot just go on and on and on indefinitely.” However, various attempts by Australian MPs to sway the US administration have so far failed.

Why could his case have implications for other media? It is not unusual for journalists to be charged with espionage – if those journalists happen to be in countries such as China, Russia, Iran or Myanmar. But it is rare for journalism in the US. “This is the first time the US has tried to prosecute a publisher under the Espionage Act,” Rebecca Vincent of media campaign group Reporters Without Borders has previously said . If his case goes ahead, it sets a precedent for journalist who obtains or discloses classified information. Ms Vincent said: “We believe this case has a lot of implications for journalism and press freedom around the world.” She added thatsthe US espionage act lacks a “public interest defence” and could be applied to “anyone publishing stories based on leaked documents”.

Julian Assange has been held without charge for four years at Belmarsh high-security prison in London (Photo: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)

Around the world

Lord Cameron has called for an immediate pause in the Gaza conflict to allow hostages out and aid in, rather than an Israeli offensive in Rafah. His comments come as the US proposes a draft UN resolution calling for a temporary ceasefire, which also urges Israel to call off its planned incursion.

Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, has vowed to continue her husband’s fight for a “free Russia” following his death. In a video posted to X, formerly Twitter, she encouraged supporters to “share the rage….rage, anger, hatred towards those who dared to kill our future”. She added: “Vladimir Putin killed my husband.”

The Novichok nerve agent is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “hallmark” and it is “very plausible” he ordered opposition leader Alexei Navalny to be killed using it, experts have told i. Russia’s most prominent Kremlin critic died at the age of 47 on Friday at the Arctic prison where he was serving a three-decade sentence.

A Russian military pilot who defected to Ukraine with a Mi-8 helicopter is understood to have been shot dead in Spain in an apparent revenge killing. According to Spanish media, Maxim Kuzminov, 28, was found dead on 13 February in the parking garage of a block of flats in the southern town of Villajoyosa, near Alicante.

The brightest known object in the universe, a quasar 500tn times brighter than our sun, was “hiding in plain sight”, researchers say. Australian scientists spotted a quasar powered by the fastest growing black hole ever discovered. Its mass is about 17bn times that of our solar system’s sun, and it devours the equivalent of a sun a day.

 Watch out for…

 Prince William, who is to carry out royal events which “recognise the human suffering” caused by the war in the Middle East. Kensington Palace said he will meet aid workers helping to provide humanitarian support in the region and separately join a synagogue discussion with young people from different communities who are advocates against hatred and antisemitism. 

 Thoughts for the day

Tory support for Donald Trump is pushing us closer to war with Russia. You can support Ukraine and Nato or you can support Trump. You cannot have both, writes Lewis Goodall.

Common sense is back – will the violently stupid be able to cope? It’s still a rare occurrence, but it gives me hope, says Lucy Mangan.

Asking Andrew Scott about Barry Keoghan’s penis was a new low for the Baftas. The uncomfortable exchange taps into an overfamiliarity a lot of gay men have experienced from strangers when it comes to sex, explains Louis Staples.

Louis Staples: ‘Since awards shows started live streaming on social media, interviews have become increasingly geared towards chasing a viral moment.’ (Photo: Dave Benett/Getty Images for Netflix)

Culture Break

The Way’s Steffan Rhodri: ‘The legacy of class struggle is part of being Welsh’. The star of the Port Talbot-set refugee drama talks to Holly Williams about growing up around the miners’ strike, and why West End theatre has too many film stars.

Steffan Rhodri, who stars in the new BBC drama ‘The Way’

The Big Read

‘I feel selfish seeing my friends’: The rise of the lonely dad. Mothers always found it easier to socialise – now remote working and the increasing demands of parenting have created a friendship recession for men, says Mike Rampton.

‘I’ve made friends with other dads, but it’s been 100 per cent driven by the mums,’ says Richard


How England could line up against Scotland with Tuilagi and Lawrence’s return. George Martin is also available for the Murrayfield clash, writes Hugh Godwin.

Manu Tuilagi and Ollie Lawrence are both available for selection (Photos: Getty)

Something to brighten your day

I’m the head at Gordonstoun. We banned phones – bullying is down and the children love it. Lisa Kerr, principal of the independent school in Scotland, tells how its phone ban has helped to beat the cyber bullies.

‘Every area of school life has improved,’ says Lisa Kerr (Photo: Supplied)

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