Four French MPs are pushing for Julian Assange to be offered asylum in France amid the WikiLeaks founder’s ongoing fight against extradition from the UK to the US.
Jennifer De Temmerman, Jean Lassalle, Cedric Villani and Francois Ruffin are due to speak at a press conference in Paris on 1 February where they will explain why Assange -- currently in prison in the UK -- should be given sanctuary in France.
Assange’s defence team announced in February 2020 that it would be seeking asylum for him in France, ahead of the hearing in the UK on whether the 50-year-old should be extradited to the US for trial.
Two years on, Assange continues to fight extradition to the US, where would face trial over the release of a trove of classified military documents more than a decade ago.
In December 2021, Britain’s High Court overturned a ruling by a lower court that Assange could not be extradited due to concerns over his mental health.
In January, Assange won the right to appeal this decision to the UK Supreme Court, further delaying his possible extradition.
WikiLeaks was formerly based in France and Assange’s children live in the country, but his lawyers admitted in 2020 that the fact that he is not on French soil would complicate the process.
Last month, Britain’s High Court ruled on Monday he could take his case to the UK Supreme Court.
The decision is the latest step in Assange’s long battle to avoid being sent to the United States to face espionage charges over WikiLeaks’ publication of classified documents more than a decade ago.
Just over a year ago, a district court judge in London rejected a US extradition request on the grounds that Assange was likely to kill himself if held under harsh US prison conditions.
US authorities later provided assurances that the WikiLeaks founder would not face the severely restrictive conditions that his lawyers said would put his physical and mental health at risk.
Last month the High Court overturned the lower court’s decision. High Court justices Ian Burnett and Timothy Holroyd said the American promises were enough to guarantee Assange would be treated humanely.
They said the US promises were “solemn undertakings, offered by one government to another, which will bind all officials and prosecutors who will deal with the relevant aspects of Mr Assange’s case now and in the future.”
Assange’s lawyers say those promises can’t be trusted and asked Britain's High Court to appeal the decision.
The court granted Assange permission to appeal.
They argued the US government’s pledge that Assange won’t be subjected to extreme conditions is meaningless because it is conditional and could be changed at the discretion of American authorities.
Assange, 50, has been held at the high-security Belmarsh Prison in London since 2019 when he was arrested for skipping bail during a separate legal battle.
Before that, he spent seven years holed up inside Ecuador’s Embassy in London. Assange sought protection in the embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden to face allegations of rape and sexual assault.
Sweden dropped the sex crimes investigations in November 2019 because so much time had elapsed.
American prosecutors say Assange unlawfully helped US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal classified diplomatic cables and military files that WikiLeaks later published, putting lives at risk.
Lawyers for Assange argue that their client shouldn’t have been charged because he was acting as a journalist and is protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution that guarantees freedom of the press.
They say the documents he published exposed US military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan.