British Home Secretary Priti Patel on Friday authorized the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States to face US justice. This marks the start of the final round of appeals in the UK courts that Assange’s lawyers will try to prevent his extradition. US authorities accuse the former hacker Australians of 18 crimes, including one of espionage, related to WikiLeaks’ release of confidential information, military records and diplomatic cables that Washington says have put lives at risk.
Assange’s supporters have argued that he is an anti-system hero, victimized for exposing irregularities committed by the US in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that his prosecution is an attack on journalism and the freedom of speech is.
“On June 17, following review by both the Magistrates’ Court and the High Court, Julian Assange was sentenced to extradition to the United States. Assange retains the normal 14-day right of appeal,” the Home Office said in a statement.
“In this case, the UK courts have not found that the extradition of Mr Assange was oppressive, unfair or an abuse of procedure,” Patel’s department said. “Nor have they found his extradition inconsistent with his human rights, including the right to a fair trial and freedom of expression. Likewise, they have concluded that he will be treated appropriately during his stay in the United States, including with regard to his health,” the public statement concludes.
Patel’s decision does not mean the end of the Australian’s legal battle after more than a decade of litigation. Your legal department can appeal to the High Court in London, which must give its consent. Ultimately, you can try to take your case to the UK High Court. But if an appeal is denied, Assange must be extradited within 28 days.
Assange was sentenced to almost a year in prison by the British judiciary for violating the restrictions on his provisional release in 2012. Swedish authorities had requested the extradition of the fugitive, who was accused of multiple crimes of rape and sexual abuse by two women who had worked at a Wikileaks event in Stockholm two years earlier. That hacker received diplomatic protection from the Ecuadorian government, then chaired by Rafael Correa, and remained imprisoned on the premises of the Ecuadorian embassy in London for seven years.
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The government of Ecuador, then chaired by Lenín Moreno, decided to cut ties with the fugitive and handed him over to British authorities in April 2019. They accused him of abusing his hospitality and committing illegal activities and meddling in the internal affairs of other countries since his captivity. Assange had become an uninvited guest who, in the days before and after the illegal referendum on October 1, 2017, provoked a protest from the Spanish government for his online campaign in support of the independence movement in Catalonia, among other things.
The Swedish government decided to reactivate the tentatively dismissed allegations against Assange after learning of his surrender in London. However, a court in that country ruled that the arrest was not necessary and thus halted some extradition proceedings that were nearing completion. In this way, the US executive’s demand gained weight. The Swedish judiciary finally decided last November to submit the case.
Knowing how to outwit his Ecuadorian hosts and the British and American intelligence services, Assange became a father twice from his prison situation. Stella Morris, 37, a lawyer of South African descent but Swedish nationality, told the British newspaper post on Sunday that she hid from the world for five years her affair with Assange, with whom she has two children, Gabriel, two years old, and Max, one. “For the past five years, I’ve found that love makes the most unbearable circumstances bearable, but now it’s different,” Morris said. “Now I’m scared I’ll never see him alive again. His health is very poor and this puts him in serious danger. I don’t think I could survive a coronavirus infection.”