UK Court Delays Julian Assange’s Extradition to US

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Judges at the UK’s High Court are seeking assurances from the United States that Assange would not face the death penalty.

A court in the UK on Tuesday handed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange a partial victory in his legal battle to fight extradition to the United States on espionage charges.

Two High Court judges said they would grant Assange a new appeal unless US authorities give further assurances about what will happen to him within the next three weeks, thereby delaying his extradition for at least another two months. 

The ruling means the legal saga, which has dragged on for more than a decade, will continue, with Assange remaining in custody at Britain’s Belmarsh Prison where he has spent the last five years.

The case has been adjourned until May 20.

Judges Victoria Sharp and Jeremy Johnson said that if no assurances are filed by the US, they will grant Assange permission to appeal extradition on grounds including breach of freedom of expression, and because he might receive the death penalty.

“If assurances are given then we will give the parties an opportunity to make further submissions before we make a final decision on the application for leave to appeal,” they said.

The judges rejected six of Assange’s nine grounds of appeal, but said they would grant appeal on three issues: freedom of speech, Assange’s claim that he faces disadvantage because he is not a US citizen, and the risk he could receive the death penalty.

US authorities have promised Assange would not receive capital punishment, but the judges said that “nothing in the existing assurance explicitly prevents the imposition of the death penalty”.

Assange’s long legal battle

Assange’s supporters say he is a journalist protected by the First Amendment who exposed US military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan that was in the public interest.

They have argued his prosecution is politically motivated and he can’t get a fair trial in the US.

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Assange’s wife Stella Assange said the WikiLeaks founder “is being persecuted because he exposed the true cost of war in human lives”.

“The Biden administration should not issue assurances. They should drop this shameful case, which should never have been brought,” she said outside the High Court in London.

Assange, 52, has been indicted on 17 espionage charges and one charge of computer misuse over his website’s publication of a trove of classified US documents almost 15 years ago. 

American prosecutors allege that Assange encouraged and helped US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal diplomatic cables and military files that WikiLeaks published.

During a two-day hearing last month, Assange’s lawyers argued that he was a secrecy-busting journalist who exposed US military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Assange ‘a political prisoner’

Sending him to the United States, they said, would expose him to a politically motivated prosecution and risk a “flagrant denial of justice”.

The US government said that Assange’s actions went way beyond those of a journalist gathering information and put lives at risk in his bid to solicit, steal, and indiscriminately publish classified government documents.

The Australian computer expert has been held in a British high-security prison for the past five years.

Assange’s family and supporters say his physical and mental health have suffered during more than a decade of legal battles, including taking refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London from 2012 until 2019.

“Julian is a political prisoner and he has to be released,” said Stella Assange, who married the WikiLeaks founder in prison in 2022.

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

source: euronews.com/uk-court-to-rule-on-wikileaks-founder-julian-assanges-extradition-to-us

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