Julian Assange: US authorities win their latest bid to extradite WikiLeaks founder

The 50-year-old Australian has been indicted in the United States under the Espionage Act for his role in publishing classified diplomatic and military cables.

Friday’s ruling by two senior judges overturns a British judge’s ruling in January that granting the US request to extradite Assange would be “oppressive” because of his mental health.

Assange’s lawyers said in a statement on Friday that they would appeal the decision based on UK Supreme Court assurances, within the required 14 days. They added that appeals on other issues, such as freedom of expression issues and the political motivation of the US extradition request, have yet to be heard by any appeals court.

In January, Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled that the “special administrative measures” in which Assange would likely be detained would have a severe negative impact on his mental health. She said Assange had “remained clinically severely or moderately depressed” during his stay in London’s Belmarsh prison and was considered a suicide risk.

According to court documents, the United States won its appeal to extradite Assange due to “four assurances” sent in a diplomatic note dated February 5, 2021.

These guarantees were that Assange would not be subject to “special administrative measures”; nor would he be held in a maximum security prison before or after the trial. Furthermore, the United States would “consent” to Assange’s request to be transferred to Australia to serve his sentence, if convicted; and while in custody in the United States, Assange would receive “appropriate clinical and psychological treatment.”

Senior judges who heard the appeal were satisfied that these guarantees met the concerns that led the judge to make her decision in January, court documents said Friday.

The judges ordered that the case now be returned to Westminster Magistrates Court, with the order that a district judge refer the case to the UK Home Secretary, who will decide whether Assange should be extradited to the United States.

Assange will remain in custody, the judges said. He is being held at Belmarsh Prison in London.

Moris, who has two children with Assange, called the latest ruling “a serious judicial error” and “dangerous and wrong.”

“How can this court approve an extradition request, under these conditions?” he said, speaking in front of the UK High Court of Justice on Friday.

“This goes to the fundamentals of freedom of the press and democracy. We will fight. Every generation has an epic fight to fight and this is ours, because Julian represents the fundamentals of what it means to live in a free society, of what it means having freedom of the press. Of what it means for journalists to do their job without being afraid of spending the rest of their lives in jail. “

Moris accused the UK of jailing Assange “on behalf of a foreign power that is taking an abusive and vindictive prosecution against a journalist” and urged “everyone to come together and fight for Julian.”

Assange is wanted in the United States on 18 criminal charges after WikiLeaks published thousands of classified files and diplomatic cables in 2010. If convicted, he faces up to 175 years in prison.

Assange spent almost seven years in hiding in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London protected by asylum status, avoiding extradition to Sweden.

Finally, he was arrested in 2019 by the London Metropolitan Police in connection with charges of skipping bail and a separate extradition order from the US Department of Justice.
Swedish prosecutors abandoned their investigation of sexual harassment and coercion against him in 2015 and their investigation into the rape allegations in 2019. Assange has always denied any wrongdoing in that case.
In July, an Ecuadorian court decided that Assange’s status as a naturalized citizen of Ecuador, which was granted to him in December 2017 by then-President Lenín Moreno, should be revoked.

CNN’s Lauren Moorhouse contributed to this report.


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