UK gives green light for extradition of Julian Assange to US
British Home Secretary Priti Patel approved this Friday the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assangeto the United States to face criminal charges, bringing his long legal saga closer to an end.
US authorities are looking for Assange for 18 counts, including one count of espionagerelated to the publication by WikiLeaks of vast amounts of confidential US military records and diplomatic cables that Washington says put lives in danger.
His supporters say he is an anti-establishment hero who has been victimized because exposed the irregularities of the United States in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that his prosecution is a politically motivated attack on journalism and freedom of expression.
His wife Stella said Assange would appeal after the Home Office said his extradition had been approved.
“In this case, the UK courts have not found that it would be oppressive, unfair or an abuse of process to extradite Mr Assange“, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
“Nor have they found that extradition would be incompatible with their human rights.including his right to a fair trial and freedom of expression, and that while in the United States he will be treated appropriately, including in relation to his health.”
Originallya British judge ruled that Assange should not be deportedsaying his mental health meant he would be at risk of suicide if convicted and held in a maximum security prison.
But this was overturned on appeal after the US gave a package of guarantees, including a promise that he could be transferred to Australia to serve any sentence.
Patel’s decision it does not mean the end of the legal fight of the Australian Assange, that has been going on for more than a decade and could continue for many more months.
You can appeal to the High Court in London, which must approve the challenge. Ultimately, you can try to take your case to the UK Supreme Court. But if an appeal is rejected, Assange must be extradited within 28 days.
“New legal battle”
“This is a dark day for press freedom and for British democracy”said Stella, Assange’s wife. “Julian’s road to freedom is long and winding. Today is not the end of the fight. It is only the beginning of a new legal battle.”
Nick Vamos, the former head of extradition for Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service, said Assange could use new evidence, such as his accusations that the CIA had planned to assassinate him, and rechallenge extradition on the grounds he originally argued, including the fact that politically motivated. The CIA has declined to comment on his allegations.
“I think I could gain some traction”said let’s Reuters. He said extradition verdicts were regularly overturned by the High Court.
WikiLeaks first rose to fame when it published a US military video in 2010 showing an Apache helicopter attack on Baghdad in 2007 that killed a dozen peopleincluding two Reuters news staff.
Then he published hundreds of thousands of classified secret files and diplomatic cables in what was the largest such security breach in US military history.
US prosecutors and Western security officials view Assange as a reckless enemy of the state whose actions endangered the lives of the agents named in the leaked material.
He and his supporters argue that he is being punished for shaming those in power and faces 175 years in prison if convicted, although American lawyers have said it would be more like four to six years.
“Allowing Julian Assange to be extradited to the United States would put him at great risk and would send a chilling message to journalists around the world”, said Agnes Callamard, secretary general of Amnesty International.
The legal saga began in late 2010 when Sweden sought Assange’s extradition from Britain on sexual offense charges. When she lost that case in 2012, he fled to the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he spent seven years.
When he was finally dragged out in April 2019, he was jailed for breaching British bail conditions, although the Swedish case against him had been dismissed. He has been fighting extradition to the United States since June 2019 and remains in jail.
During his time at the Ecuadorian embassy he had two children with his now wife, whom he married at London’s Belmarsh high-security prison in March in a ceremony attended by only four guests, two official witnesses and two guards.
With information from Reuters