UK government orders Julian Assange’s extradition to the US

The British government has ordered the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the US.

The British government has ordered the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States.

UK Home Secretary Priti Patel made the decision on Friday after Assange was denied a Supreme Court appeal in March.

Assange’s legal team now has the opportunity to appeal the extradition and may also seek judicial review.

For more than a decade, the US has tried to bring the 50-year-old Australian to trial for his connection to WikiLeaks’ publication of 500,000 secret military files related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The London Supreme Court in December overturned a lower court’s decision not to send him to the United States, claiming he would be a suicide risk.

Assange’s lawyers then challenged the decision, arguing that the country’s highest court should rule on “law issues of general public importance”.

“Defendant’s request to certify a point of law has been granted,” Justices Ian Burnett and Timothy Holroyde said in a written decision in January.

His supporters have long argued that his physical and mental health has been affected by being locked up in a high-security prison in south east London.

He is behind bars because he is seen as a flight risk, having previously skipped bail in 2012 over allegations he sexually assaulted two women in Sweden.

Previously, he spent seven years at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Assange supporters have held frequent rallies to protest the planned deportation.

His wife, Stella, asked for his release from custody after they had two children in secret while the 50-year-old activist was in hiding for years at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

WikiLeaks called Patel’s decision a “dark day for press freedom and British democracy” and vowed to take the appeal to the Supreme Court, accusing the United States of having “planned his assassination”.

“Julian didn’t do anything wrong. He has committed no crime and is not a criminal. He is a journalist and editor and is being punished for doing his job,” the group said in a statement.

WikiLeaks said the case was “political” as Assange published evidence that the United States “committed war crimes and covered them up”.

The extradition was an attempt to “try to make him disappear into the darkest recesses of his prison system for the rest of his life to prevent others from holding governments to account”.

An Interior Ministry spokesman said there was no reason for Patel to block the order.

“In this case, the UK courts did not find it oppressive, unfair or an abuse of process to extradite Assange,” the spokesperson said.

“They also did not find that extradition would be incompatible with his human rights, including his right to a fair trial and freedom of expression, and that while in the US he will be treated properly, including with regard to his health.” Assange has become a cause célèbre for media freedom, with his supporters accusing Washington of trying to muzzle reporting on legitimate security concerns.

He is wanted to stand trial for violating the US Espionage Act by publishing military and diplomatic files in 2010, and faces up to 175 years in prison if found guilty, although the exact sentence is difficult to estimate.

He has been on remand in a maximum security prison in south east London since 2019 for skipping bail in a previous case that accused him of sexual assault in Sweden.

That case was dropped, but he was not released from prison after serving time for breaching bail, claiming it was a flight risk in the US extradition case.

Assange, who married in prison in March, spent seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid being removed to Sweden.

He was arrested when the government changed in Quito and his diplomatic protection was removed.

with AFP

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