Julian Assange, the publisher of Wikileaks who has been confined in a London prison since 2019, will now have 14 days to challenge the Home Secretary’s order before being extradited to the United States to face espionage charges.
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Priti Patel, the home secretary for the United Kingdom, has given her approval for the extradition of Julian Assange, the co-founder of WikiLeaks, to the United States, where he is accused of espionage in connection with the publication of millions of secret government papers.
For more than a decade, the United States has been requesting Assange’s extradition in order to prosecute him on 17 counts of espionage and one count of computer misuse related to his release of thousands of classified material and videos, some of which depict American soldiers killing innocent civilians during the Iraq War.
The U.K. Supreme Court overruled an earlier decision that barred Assange, an Australian citizen, from being extradited due to suicidal ideation, giving Patel the authority to approve his extradition.
Assange could now face up to 175 years in jail if found guilty by a U.S. court as a result of the extradition’s approval.
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“On 17 June, following consideration by both the magistrates’ court and high court, the extradition of Mr. Julian Assange to the U.S. was ordered. Mr Assange retains the normal 14-day right to appeal ,” a Home Office official said Friday morning. The spokesperson further added that “the U.K. courts have not found that it would be oppressive, unjust or an abuse of process to extradite Mr. Assange.”
“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 U.S. he will be treated appropriately, including in relation to his health,” the spokesman stated.
At a televised address on Friday, Assange’s wife, Stella Assange, addressed the media and emphasized “the extremely serious implications this has for all of you and your profession and for human rights.”
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The troubled journalist’s wife stated that it “was always a possibility that Priti Patel would approve sending Julian to the country that has plotted to assassinate him, to the country that Julian exposed the crimes of,” but pledged that the pair would keep fighting to prevent his extradition.
“We are not at the end of the road here, we are going to fight this. We are going to use every appeal avenue and we are going to fight. I’m going to spend every waking hour working for Julian until he is free, until justice is served,” she said.
According to Assange’s longtime legal representative Jennifer Robinson, “this decision is a grave threat to freedom of speech, not jut for Julian but for every journalist and editor and media worker in this country. He faces 175 years in prison for publishing information for which he has won journalism awards the world over, and has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.”
The attorney promised to explore all appeal options “to stop this extradition from happening” and urged the Biden government to withdraw the lawsuit due to the serious danger it posed to free speech worldwide. The Australian government was urged to “take action and to protect this Australian citizen who is at risk” by Assange’s legal team.
Following the announcement of Patel’s decision, WikiLeaks issued a statement in which it defended the former publisher and claimed that he had done “nothing wrong,” adding that “[t]his is a dark day for press freedom and for British democracy.”
The media outlet declared that Patel would be the subject of an appeal, calling Patel “an accomplice of the United States in its agenda to turn investigative journalism into a criminal enterprise.”
“The path to Julian’s freedom is long and torturous. Today is not the end of the fight. It is only the beginning of a new legal battle,” they wrote.