Court grants US appeal, meaning Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange is set to be extradited to US to face espionage charges. However an appeal is expected
Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange is to be extradited to the United States to face espionage charges.
The Guardian reported that the High Court has ruled Julian Assange can be extradited to the US, overturning a court judgement earlier this year.
Assange’s fiancee has reportedly said an appeal will be launched, and Amnesty International has reportedly said the decision is a ‘travesty of justice’.
The court ruling represents a major blow for Assange and his very lengthy fight against extradition to the US.
That resistance seem to have paid off when in January 2021, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser in London blocked the US extradition request because of concerns over Assange’s mental health and risk of suicide in America.
In August this year, Assange lost a legal battle to stop the US appeal, after a British judge ruled the United States could expand its extradition case against the Wikileaks co-founder.
Then in October lawyers for the US told the High Court that the judge who had blocked Julian Assange’s extradition in January, had been misled by his psychiatrist.
Assange is wanted by the US Justice Department, which has accused him of violating the Espionage Act, after he received top secret data (from Chelsea Manning) and unlawfully published the names of classified sources back in 2010 and 2011.
And now on Friday, the Guardian reported that senior judges found that a then-district judge had based her decision earlier this year on the risk of Assange being held in highly restrictive prison conditions if extradited.
In their ruling on Friday, they sided with the US authorities after a package of assurances were put forward that Assange would not face those strictest measures, either pre-trial or post-conviction unless he committed an act in the future that required them.
“That risk is in our judgement excluded by the assurances which are offered,” Lord Burnett was quoted as saying. “It follows that we are satisfied that, if the assurances had been before the judge, she would have answered the relevant question differently.”
“That conclusion is sufficient to determine this appeal in the USA’s favour,” he said.
The Guardian reported that allowing the appeal, the judges have ordered that the case be remitted to Westminster magistrates court with a direction that a district justice send the case to the secretary of state, who will decide whether Assange should be extradited to the US.
Responding to the decision, Stella Moris, Julian Assange’s fiancee, reportedly said: “We will appeal this decision at the earliest possible moment.”
She described the high court’s ruling as “dangerous and misguided” and a “grave miscarriage of justice.”
“How can it be fair, how can it be right, how can it be possible, to extradite Julian to the very country which plotted to kill him?” she said.
Amnesty International meanwhile described the ruling as a “travesty of justice”.
“By allowing this appeal, the high court has chosen to accept the deeply flawed diplomatic assurances given by the US that Assange would not be held in solitary confinement in a maximum security prison.” Nils Muižnieks, Amnesty International’s Europe director, was quoted by the Guardian as saying.
“If extradited to the US, Julian Assange could not only face trial on charges under the Espionage Act but also a real risk of serious human rights violations due to detention conditions that could amount to torture or other ill-treatment. The US government’s indictment poses a grave threat to press freedom both in the United States and abroad.”
There was also a strong response from Reporters Without Borders.
“It also needs to be made extremely clear that Assange’s mental health is at high risk, which will be exacerbated in extradition, despite the US assurances,” tweeted Rebecca Vincent, director of international campaigns at Reporters Without Borders and the organisation’s UK bureau director. “The UK High Court is quite frankly – and appallingly – gambling with his life.