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Home World News Washington Post World News British government orders Julian Assange’s extradition; appeal planned

British government orders Julian Assange’s extradition; appeal planned

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LONDON — The British government on Friday ordered the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States on charges of espionage, a milestone — but not the end — of a decade-long legal saga sparked by the publication of classified US documents. on his website.

WikiLeaks said it would challenge the injunction, and Assange’s lawyers have 14 days to appeal.

“We’re not at the end of the road here,” Assange’s wife, Stella Assange, said. “We’re going to fight this.”

Julian Assange has been fighting in British courts for years to avoid being sent to the US, where he faces 17 charges of espionage and one of computer abuse charges.

US prosecutors say the Australian citizen helped US military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal classified diplomatic telegrams and military files that WikiLeaks later published, putting lives at risk.

To his supporters, Assange, 50, is a secret-breaking journalist who exposed US military misconduct in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A British court ruled in April that Assange could be sent to trial in the US, and sent the case to the British government for a decision. British Home Secretary Priti Patel on Friday signed an order authorizing Assange’s extradition.

The Home Office said in a statement that the government had to approve his move to the US because “the British courts have not determined that it would be oppressive, unjust or an abuse of process to extradite Mr Assange.”

Legal experts say it could be months or even years before the case is closed.

Assange’s lawyers said they would face a new legal challenge. “We will appeal all the time, if necessary to the European Court of Human Rights,” said attorney Jennifer Robinson.

Robinson asked US President Joe Biden to drop the charges against Assange during Donald Trump’s presidency, arguing they posed a “serious threat” to free speech.

Assange’s supporters and lawyers claim that he acted as a journalist and is entitled to freedom of expression protection under the First Amendment. They argue that the case is politically motivated, that he would be treated inhumanely and would not receive a fair trial in the US

Silkie Carlo, director of the civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, said the “British government’s complicity in the political persecution of a journalist just to reveal inconvenient truths to the public is abhorrent, wrong and shames our country.” “.

Stella Assange, a lawyer who married her husband in a prison ceremony in March, said the decision marked “a dark day for press freedom and for British democracy” in the UK.

“Julian didn’t do anything wrong,” she said. “He has committed no crime and is not a criminal. He’s a journalist and publisher, and he’s being punished for doing his job.”

Friday’s decision came after a legal battle that led all the way to the UK’s Supreme Court.

A British court initially rejected the extradition request on the grounds that Assange would likely commit suicide if he was held in harsh US prison conditions. US authorities later gave assurances that the WikiLeaks founder would not undergo the harsh treatment his lawyers say would endanger his physical and mental health.

Those pledges prompted the UK Supreme Court and the Supreme Court to reverse the lower court’s ruling.

Journalists and human rights organizations had called on Britain to refuse the extradition request. Assange’s lawyers say he could face up to 175 years in prison if convicted in the US, although US authorities have said any sentence will likely be much less.

Amnesty International Secretary-General Agnes Callamard said Friday that Assange’s extradition would “put him in grave danger and send a chilling message to journalists around the world.”

“If the extradition goes ahead, Amnesty International is deeply concerned that Assange is at high risk of long-term solitary confinement, which would violate the ban on torture or other ill-treatment,” she said.

Assange remains in high-security Belmarsh prison in London, where he has been since he was arrested in 2019 for skipping bail during a separate legal battle. Before that, he spent seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden over charges of rape and sexual assault.

Sweden dropped investigations into sex crimes in November 2019 because so much time had passed, but British judges have kept Assange in prison pending the outcome of the extradition case.



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