The extradition of Julian Assange to the US approved by the British government | CNN



British Home Secretary Priti Patel has signed an order to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States, where he faces charges of espionage, in a decision his organization says marked a “dark day for press freedom”.

A court in London issued a formal extradition order in April. Leaving Patel behind to approve his transfer to the US after years of legal battle.

The decision is likely to involve months of legal wrangling: Jennifer Robinson, Assange’s legal counsel, said Friday that an appeal would be filed and that the case could eventually be referred to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

“This is not the end of the road, and we will use every appeal at our disposal to prevent this extradition,” she told a news conference.

In a statement released Friday, Wikileaks claimed that Assange “has committed no crime and is not a criminal”, adding that he is a “journalist and publisher” who is “punished for doing his job”.

“This is a dark day for press freedom and British democracy. Anyone who cares about free speech should be ashamed of themselves,” Wikileaks added.

The Ministry of the Interior emphasized Friday that the British courts have not ruled that extradition of Assange would be incompatible with his human rights.

“The UK courts have not ruled that it would be oppressive, unjust or an abuse of process to extradite Mr Assange. Nor have they found that extradition would be incompatible with his human rights, including his right to a fair trial and freedom of expression, and that he would be treated appropriately in the US, including his health,” the report said. . a statement announcing the order.

Assange has the right to appeal Friday’s decision within 14 days, it added.

Assange’s wife, Stella Moris, said at Friday’s press conference that the UK “must not prosecute on behalf of a foreign power bent on revenge … that foreign power has committed crimes that have honored Julian.”

Assange is currently in high-security Belmarsh Prison in London, where he has been held since he was dragged from the Ecuadorian embassy in London three years ago.

He is wanted in the US on 18 charges after WikiLeaks published thousands of classified files and diplomatic messages in 2010. If convicted, Assange faces up to 175 years in prison.

His extradition has been the subject of numerous court hearings since his arrest, which took place after Assange spent seven years seeking diplomatic refuge in the embassy. In January 2021, a court of law ruled that Assange could not be extradited because it would be “oppressive” due to his mental health.

But the Supreme Court overturned that decision in December, saying Assange could be extradited on guarantees from the US government about his treatment there.

Human rights groups have expressed concern over the US indictment of Assange for undermining press freedom.

“If Julian Assange were extradited to the US, he would be at great risk and send a chilling message to journalists around the world,” Amnesty International’s secretary-general Agnes Callamard said in a statement Friday.

Speaking alongside Assange’s wife on Friday, Tim Dawson, an executive of the UK’s National Union of Journalists, said the alleged offenses for which the Wikileaks founder was being prosecuted “were the daily business of almost every investigative journalist”.

On Friday, the Australian Foreign Office issued a statement noting the UK’s decision to extradite Assange, who is an Australian citizen, adding: “We will continue to express our expectations that Mr. Assange has the right to a fair trial, humane and fair treatment, access to adequate medical care and access to his legal team.”

According to the statement, the Australian government said the Wikileaks founder’s case “has taken too long and needs to be closed”.

“We will continue to express this view to the governments of the United Kingdom and the United States,” it said.

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