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Julian Assange likely to appeal after UK government approves his extradition to the US


The British government on Friday ordered the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States to face spying charges — a milestone, but not the end of the decade-long legal saga.

WikiLeaks said it would challenge the order, and has 14 days to lodge an appeal.

Home Secretary Priti Patel signed the order authorising Assange’s extradition to the US, where he faces charges over WikiLeaks’ publication of a huge trove of classified documents.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange pauses as he makes a statement to media gathered outside the High Court in London on Monday, December 5, 2011.
A British court ruled in April that Assange could be sent to the US. (File/AP)

The decision was referred to Patel after a British court ruled in April that Assange could be sent to the US, where he faces trial on 17 charges of espionage and one charge of computer misuse.

American prosecutors say Assange unlawfully helped US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal classified diplomatic cables and military files that WikiLeaks later published, putting “lives at risk”.

The Home Office said in a statement that “the UK courts have not found that it would be oppressive, unjust or an abuse of process to extradite Mr Assange,” and so the government had to approve the extradition.

“Nor have they found that extradition would be incompatible with his human rights, including his right to a fair trial and to freedom of expression, and that whilst in the US he will be treated appropriately, including in relation to his health,” it said.

The British government has approved the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States to face spying charges. (60 Minutes)

Supporters and lawyers for Assange, 50, argue that he was acting as a journalist and is entitled to First Amendment protections of freedom of speech for publishing documents that exposed US military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan.

They argue that his case is politically motivated and that he cannot get a fair trial in the US.

“Today is not the end of the fight. It is only the beginning of a new legal battle,” said Assange’s wife, Stella Assange.

She said the UK decision marked “a dark day for press freedom and for British democracy.”

“Julian did nothing wrong,” she said.

Julian Assange and partner Stella Moris
Julian Assange and partner Stella Moris (Twitter/StellaMoris)

“He has committed no crime and is not a criminal. He is a journalist and a publisher, and he is being punished for doing his job.”

Julian Assange’s father John Shipton called for the support the Australian Government.

“Julian’s life is literally in the hands of the Australian government,” he said.

“We know from independent medical reports that his mental state is very poor.

“This is exacerbated by the harsh conditions of his current imprisonment and the knowledge that he will never receive a fair trial if he is extradited to the United States.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is seen with his ankle security tag at the house where he is required to stay, near Bungay, England, Wednesday, June 15, 2011.
Julian Assange’s father John Shipton called for the support the Australian Government to “end this nightmare” (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

“I urge Mr Albanese to pick up the phone and ask President Biden to end this nightmare.”

The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance also called on the Australian Government to take urgent steps to lobby the US and UK Governments to drop all charges against Assange and to allow him to be with his wife and children.

However, a statement from Foreign Minister Penny Wong noted the Australian government couldn’t “intervene in the legal matters of another country”.

“The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will continue to offer consular assistance to Mr Assange, noting that Australia is not a party to Mr Assange’s case, nor can the Australian government intervene in the legal matters of another country,” the statement read.

“We will continue to convey our expectations that Mr Assange is entitled to due process, humane and fair treatment, access to proper medical care, and access to his legal team.

“The Australian Government has been clear in our view that Mr Assange’s case has dragged on for too long and that it should be brought to a close.

A statement from Foreign Minister Penny Wong noted the Australian government couldn’t “intervene in the legal matters of another country” (AP)

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

A British judge approved the extradition in April, leaving the final decision to the government.

The ruling came after a legal battle that went all the way to the UK Supreme Court.

A British district court judge had initially rejected the extradition request on the grounds that Assange was likely to kill himself if held under harsh US prison conditions.

US authorities later provided assurances that the WikiLeaks founder wouldn’t face the severe treatment that his lawyers said would put his physical and mental health at risk.

Those assurances led Britain’s High Court and Supreme Court to overturn the lower court’s ruling.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks on the balcony of the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, Friday, February 5, 2016.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks on the balcony of the Ecuadorean Embassy in London in February, 2016. (File/AP)

Journalism organisations and human rights groups had called on Britain to refuse the extradition request.

Assange’s lawyers say he could face up to 175 years in jail if he is convicted in the US, though American authorities have said any sentence is likely to be much lower than that.

Amnesty International Secretary General Agnes Callamard said on Friday that extraditing Assange “would put him at great risk and sends a chilling message to journalists the world over.”

“If the extradition proceeds, Amnesty International is extremely concerned that Assange faces a high risk of prolonged solitary confinement, which would violate the prohibition on torture or other ill treatment,” she said.

“Diplomatic assurances provided by the US that Assange will not be kept in solitary confinement cannot be taken on face value given previous history.”

Assange has been held at Britain’s high-security Belmarsh Prison in London since 2019, when he was arrested for skipping bail during a separate legal battle.

Before that, he spent seven years inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden to face allegations of rape and sexual assault.

Sweden dropped the sex crimes investigations in November 2019 because so much time had elapsed.

In March Assange and his partner Stella Moris, who have two sons together, married in a prison ceremony.



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