In January this year Assange was given permission to go to the UK Supreme Court to challenge a decision allowing him to be extradited to the US to face espionage charges, with potentially a 175 year prison sentence.
In March the UK Supreme Court ruled that WikiLeaks founder’s application ‘didn’t raise an arguable point of law’, essentially refusing to hear his appeal against the extradition.
The Guardian reported that the case was then passed to the home secretary last month, and this Friday Patel has approved the extradition.
WikiLeaks however tweeted it would appeal against the decision.
“This is a dark day for Press freedom and for British democracy,” said Wikileaks. “Julian did nothing wrong. He has committed no crime and is not a criminal. He is a journalist and a publisher and he is being punished for doing his job.”
“It was in Priti Patel’s power to do the right thing. Instead she will for ever be remembered as an accomplice of the United States in its agenda to turn investigative journalism into a criminal enterprise,” said Wikileaks.
“Today is not the end of fight,” it added. “It is only the beginning of a new legal battle. We will appeal through the legal system; the next appeal will be before the High Court.”
The Guardian reported that any appeal is likely to focus on grounds such as the right to freedom of expression and whether the extradition request is politically motivated.
Patel had been considering whether the US extradition request met remaining legal tests, including a promise not to execute him.
Patel’s decision was slammed by some politicians and journalists.
The former cabinet minister David Davis said: “Sadly, I do not believe Mr Assange will get a fair trial. This extradition treaty needs to be rewritten to give British and American citizens identical rights, unlike now.”
Meanwhile the veteran BBC broadcaster John Simpson reportedly said: “Journalists in Britain and elsewhere will be very worried by the decision to extradite Julian Assange to the US – both for his own wellbeing and for the precedent it creates for journalism worldwide.”
A Home Office spokesperson was quoted by the Guardian as saying: “Under the Extradition Act 2003, the secretary of state must sign an extradition order if there are no grounds to prohibit the order being made.
“Extradition requests are only sent to the home secretary once a judge decides it can proceed after considering various aspects of the case.
“On 17 June, following consideration by both the magistrates court and high court, the extradition of Mr Julian Assange to the US was ordered. Mr Assange retains the normal 14-day right to appeal.
“In this case, the UK 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 US he will be treated appropriately, including in relation to his health.”
Assange has been fighting against attempts by the United States to extradite him for more than a decade now.
His resistance seem to have paid off in January 2021, when 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.
But last August, 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.
Last month senior judges found that the district judge had based extradition refusal ruling on the risk of Assange being held in highly restrictive prison conditions if extradited.
The judges 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.
The High Court thus ruled Julian Assange can be extradited to the US.
Amnesty International condemned the decision as a ‘travesty of justice’, and Assange’s legal team said an appeal would begin immediately.
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