UK approves extradition of WikiLeaks boss Julian Assange to the United States

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is facing declining opportunities after the UK government approved his extradition to the United States in Friday. The ruling is the latest in a long-running legal battle that began when former military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning leaked secret government documents on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that Assange published on WikiLeaks in 2010

The decision on Friday, approved by the Minister of the Interior of the United Kingdom Priti Patel, is the last in a series of legal battles that Assange lost in an effort to stay in the UK. This is a blow to Assange, who has spent the last decade in hiding at the Ecuadorian embassy in London or in a prison in the United Kingdom. And his increasingly likely prosecution in U.S. courts creates a uncertain moment for the rights of the First Amendment and the ability of news outlets to publish material considered a threat to national security.

“This is a grim day for press freedom and for British democracy,” WikiLeaks said statement shared on Twitter. “Julian didn’t do anything wrong. He has not committed a crime and is not a criminal. He is a journalist and a publisher. ” Wikileaks said Assange intends to appeal.

“Assange may have at least one other way to appeal, so he may not be on a flight to the United States yet,” said Trevor Tim, executive director of the Press Freedom Group. statement. “But this is another worrying development in a case that could violate the rights of journalists in the 21st century.” IN charges against Assange include 17 under the Espionage Act and one under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Friday’s decision overturned a December 2021 decision declaring that Assange could not be extradited, as his imprisonment in the United States could increase the risk of suicide. The judge accepted the United States assurances that Assange will not face isolation and will have access to psychological treatment.

“The UK courts have not found that it would be oppressive, unfair or abusive to extradite Mr. Assange, a spokesman for the British Home Office told WIRED. “Nor have they established that extradition would be incompatible with his human rights, including his right to a fair trial and freedom of expression, and that while he is in the United States, he will be treated appropriately, including in relation to his health.

Assange’s legal team has 14 days to appeal, according to the interior ministry. His next step, now that Assange’s defense argument based on the risk of suicide has been rejected, is likely to focus on other arguments his team has made against extradition, such as the threat to press freedom and political bias against Assange by U.S. law enforcement, given that Assange has been a thorn in the side of the U.S. executive for more than a decade.

“I think there are a lot of roads here,” said Naomi Colvin, director of the UK / Ireland’s Blueprint for Free Speech advocacy group. She points out that even if these additional arguments fail to affect the UK judiciary, Assange could also appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, arguing that extradition would violate the UK’s commitment to the treaties. for human rights. Alternatively, Assange’s team could seek a judicial review that would specifically challenge the political side of Patel’s decision, Colvin added.

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