UK Government Approves Extradition of WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange to US; possible appeal


LONDON (AP) — The British government has ordered the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States to face espionage charges. He is likely to appeal.

On Friday, Home Secretary Priti Patel signed the extradition order, her department said. This follows a UK court ruling in April that Assange could be sent to the US

The Home Office said in a statement that “the UK courts have not found that it would be oppressive, unfair or an abuse of process to extradite Mr Assange”.

“Nor have they concluded that extradition would be inconsistent 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 as appropriate manner, including with respect to his health.”

The ruling is a big moment in Assange’s years-long battle to avoid trial in the United States – but not necessarily the end of the story. Assange has 14 days to appeal.

A British judge approved the extradition in April, leaving the final decision to the government. The decision came after a legal battle that went all the way to the UK Supreme Court.

The US has asked UK authorities to extradite Assange so he can stand trial on 17 espionage charges and one computer misuse charge for WikiLeaks’ release of a huge trove of classified documents he more than ten years ago. US prosecutors allege Assange illegally helped US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal diplomatic cables and classified military files which WikiLeaks later released, putting lives at risk.

Journalism organizations and human rights groups have called on Britain to refuse the extradition request.

Supporters and lawyers of Assange, 50, argue he was acting as a journalist and is entitled to First Amendment free speech protections for publishing material that exposed the wrongdoings of the US Army in Iraq and Afghanistan. They argue that his case is politically motivated.

Assange’s lawyers say he could face up to 175 years in prison if convicted in the United States, although US authorities have said any sentence is likely to be much less than that.

Assange has been held in Britain’s high-security Belmarsh prison in London since 2019, when he was arrested for skipping bail in a separate legal battle. Prior to that, he spent seven years inside Ecuador’s embassy in London to avoid being extradited to Sweden to face allegations of rape and sexual assault.

Sweden dropped sex crime investigations in November 2019 because so much time had passed.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.



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