UK government approves Wikileaks founder Julian Assange's extradition to US
The British government approved the extradition of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to the United States on Friday to stand trial for the publication of secret files related to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The interior ministry of Home Secretary Priti Patel stated that Assange had 14 days to file an appeal, which comes after a British court upheld a formal order authorizing his deportation.
- Assange founded WikiLeaks in 2006.
- It's a multimedia organization that analyzes and publishes classified data and other news leaks.
- In 2010, it published a series of leaks, including the Baghdad airstrike, the Collateral Murder video, Afghanistan and the Iraq war logs, and Cablegate.
- Consequently, Assange became wanted by the US government on 17 counts, including espionage, which they claim has endangered lives.
"On 17 June, following consideration by both the Magistrates Court and High Court, the extradition of Mr. Julian Assange to the US was ordered. Mr. Assange retains the normal 14-day right to appeal," the Home Office of the UK government stated. "The UK courts have not found that it would be oppressive, unjust or an abuse of process to extradite Mr. Assange," it added.
"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 whilst in the US he will be treated appropriately, including in relation to his health," the Home Office added.
US prosecutors have indicted Assange on 17 espionage charges and one charge of computer misuse over WikiLeaks's publication of leaked military and diplomatic documents in 2010, exposing US military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan. His lawyers argue that he was acting as a journalist and is entitled to First Amendment protections of freedom of speech for publishing the documents.
The US indictment claims Assange conspired with army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to crack a scrambled encrypted password, known as "hash," to access US Department of Defense computers. He has denied the charges and claimed there is no evidence anyone's safety was put at risk.
Assange's supporters argue that he is an anti-establishment hero who has been victimized for exposing US wrongdoings, terming his prosecution an attack on free speech and journalism. Wikileaks described the case as "political," citing Assange's publication as evidence that the US "committed war crimes and covered them up." Stella, his wife, had also requested his release after they had two kids in secret.
Wikileaks described Patel's decision as a "dark day for press freedom and British democracy," and vowed to take the case to the High Court, accusing the US of having "plotted his assassination." "Julian did nothing wrong. He has committed no crime and isn't a criminal. He's a journalist and a publisher, and he's being punished for doing his job," the group stated.
Assange, an Australian editor, publisher, and activist, has been lodged at London's Belmarsh Prison since 2019, after hiding out for seven years inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in the UK capital to avoid extradition. US prosecutors want to put him on trial for hacking and disclosing classified information, including the identities of informants who were helping intelligence agencies in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere.
District Judge Vanessa Baraitser in January 2021, refused Assange's extradition to the US since he was likely to commit suicide pertaining to his mental health issues. Assange suffers from clinical depression, which can be exacerbated by the isolation he would face in a US prison.
According to Assange's lawyers, if he's convicted in the US, he may face 175 years in prison, though US authorities have stated that any punishment is probably to be much lower. Assange had earlier reportedly faced allegations of sexual assault, which were later dismissed.