US Provides Assurances For Julian Assange Extradition

The United States legal process to prosecute WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange continues, as America provides reassurances to the High Court in London.

The US pledged not to impose the death penalty on Julian Assange, and issued other assurances in order to prevent a last minute appeal against the extradition order.

It comes after US President Joe Biden made a surprising intervention earlier this month, when he was asked about the Australian request to drop the case against Assange, and answered “we’re considering it.”

Extradition appeal

Assange has been fighting attempts by the United States to extradite him to America for years now.

The High Court in December 2021 ruled that Julian Assange could be extradited to the US, but Assange’s legal team started an appeal immediately.

At a two-day hearing in February 2024, during which Assange was too unwell to attend, his lawyers reportedly argued that he faced a “flagrant denial of justice” if prosecuted in the US.

But in March 2024 the High Court in London granted a temporary reprieve against his extradition order, after two judges ruled the WikiLeaks founder could take his case to an appeal hearing – but only if the Biden administration was unable to provide the court with suitable assurances.

According to the Guardian newspaper, the High Court sought assurances from the Biden Administration “that the applicant [Assange] is permitted to rely on the first amendment, that the applicant is not prejudiced at trial, including sentence, by reason of his nationality, that he is afforded the same first amendment [free speech] protections as a United States citizen, and that the death penalty is not imposed”.

US assurances

According to the Guardian, the assurances given by the United States state that Assange “will not be prejudiced by reason of his nationality with respect to which defences he may seek to raise at trial and at sentencing”.

The assurances referred specifically to Assange having “the ability to raise and seek to rely upon” the first amendment but also said that its applicability “is exclusively within the purview of the US courts”.

The assurances also reportedly stated: “A sentence of death will neither be sought nor imposed on Assange.”

If the British judges now decide to deny Assange permission to appeal after the US assurances, the Wikileaks founder faces being extradited to the US within days, as he will have exhausted all of his legal avenues in the UK courts.

Assange’s only remaining option would then be if the European court of human rights intervened, the Guardian noted.

Weasel words

The WikiLeaks founder’s wife has dismissed the US assurances as “weasel words”.

Stella Assange tweeted: “The United States has issued a non-assurance in relation to the first amendment, and a standard assurance in relation to the death penalty.

“It makes no undertaking to withdraw the prosecution’s previous assertion that Julian has no first amendment rights because he is not a US citizen. Instead, the US has limited itself to blatant weasel words claiming that Julian can ‘seek to raise’ the first amendment if extradited.

“The diplomatic note does nothing to relieve our family’s extreme distress about his future – his grim expectation of spending the rest of his life in isolation in US prison for publishing award-winning journalism. The Biden administration must drop this dangerous prosecution before it is too late.”

According to the Guardian, both sides will argue over the worth of the assurances at a further high court hearing slated for 20 May.

Leaked documents

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.

He is wanted in America over an alleged conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information following the publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

Assange has been held in London’s Belmarsh prison since his arrest in April 2019 after leaving the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he had claimed political asylum in June 2012 in order to avoid extradition to Sweden to face allegations of rape and sexual assault.

The Swedish investigation was dropped in 2019.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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