Assange’s U.S. Reckoning Nears as U.K. Judges Grant Extradition
The U.S. government moved a step closer to prosecuting Julian Assange on espionage charges, after London judges accepted that the WikiLeaks chief can be safely sent to America.
The decision reverses a lower court’s ruling that had blocked the WikiLeaks founder from being extradited to the U.S. to face criminal charges, for fear that prison conditions there would result in his suicide. The case will now be referred to the U.K. Home Office.
The judges accepted U.S. assurances to the U.K. that he won’t face solitary confinement or a supermax prison in Colorado if he’s jailed in the U.S. They said he can serve his sentence in Australia if convicted.
Assange, 50, has been in prison or in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012, as he fought attempts to send him to face charges first in Sweden and then in the U.S.
The Swedish case against him was dropped, but the U.S. government in 2019 charged him with espionage for his role in releasing hundreds of thousands of pages of classified documents via WikiLeaks, with the help of U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning. Australian-born Assange is being held in London’s Belmarsh prison.
Assange’s fiancee Stella Moris said he will appeal the decision “at the earliest possible moment.” He has several appeal routes available to him, meaning he’s unlikely to be sent to the U.S. in the near future.
Moris described the High Court’s ruling as “dangerous and misguided” and a “grave miscarriage of justice.”
Assange’s lawyers have said he might commit suicide in a U.S. jail, an argument that a lower court judge agreed with in January when she blocked his extradition. Assange would face “conditions of significant isolation,” Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled at the time, citing Jeffrey Epstein’s 2019 death as an example of when preventative measures weren’t able to protect inmates from self harm.
Source: Bloomberg news