Wikileaks founder Julian Assange faces appeal by US government to extradite him on espionage charges

Assange is currently being held in Belmarsh Prison, London, after being arrested outside the Ecuadorian embassy

The US government’s attempts to extradite whistle-blower Julian Assange will reach the High Court today.

Assange is currently wanted in the US on espionage charges, relating to his website, WikiLeaks.

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At a glance - Key facts

Julian Assange was arrested outside the Ecuadorian embassy in 2019 (Picture: Getty Images)

- Today’s hearing (11 August) is an appeal of the decision made in January by district judge Vanessa Baraitser not to extradite him, citing a real risk of suicide.

- The preliminary hearing is expected to last around two hours, in which it is thought the US will appeal for the right to forcefully extradite the WikiLeaks founder. The hearing before Lord Justice Holroyde and Mrs Justice Farbey is due to start at 10.30am.

- The 50-year-old is wanted over conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information, following WikiLeaks’ publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

- His lawyers have described the grounds by which the US government has applied for its appeal as “narrow, technical grounds”.

Assange's wife and two sons attended a protest in Parliament Square, which took place on the Whistle blower's 50th birthday (Picture: Getty Images)

- Assange has been in the UK since 2012, when he took up refuge at the Ecuadorian embassy, but has since been arrested and is currently an inmate at Belmarsh prison.

What’s been said

As Assange and his legal team prepared for Wednesday’s hearing, his partner Stella Morris visited him in prison and appealed to US President Joe Biden to drop the case.

She told the PA news agency: “This is a dark legacy that Biden is making his own unless he reverses course and that has to be done.”

She went on to describe her husband as a “fighter” who had battled “some very dark moments” during his stay at Belmarsh.

Background - why has he been held in the UK?

Australian-born Assange has been held in Belmarsh Prison since 2019 after he was carried out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London by police before being arrested for breaching his bail conditions.

He had entered the building in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden to face sex offence allegations, which he has always denied and were eventually dropped.

Since staying at the Ecuadorian Embassy, he has struck up a relationship with South-African born lawyer Stella Morris.

The couple became romantically involved in 2015 and plan to marry in the near future, they also share two sons - Gabriel, four, and two-year-old Max, who were conceived in the embassy.