The United Kingdom Approves Julian Assange’s Extradition to the United States for Espionage Charges
Real journalism took a devastating blow on June 17, 2022 after the British government ordered the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States to face espionage charges.
British Home Secretary Prit Patel signed the extradition order, which Assange is expected to appeal. This decision came after a British court ruled in April that Assange could be extradited to the US.
In a statement that the Home Office released, it said that “the U.K 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 U.S. he will be treated appropriately, including in relation to his health.”
Currently, Assange has 14 days to appeal and his wife Stella Assange has promised to “fight this” after the British government made the announcement on June 17.
“We’re going to use every appeal avenue,” she said to reporters in London on June 17. “I’m going to spend every waking hour fighting for Julian until he is free, until justice is served.”
A British judge signed off on the extradition back in April, thus giving the government the final call on the decision to extradite. This ruling came in the aftermath of a court battle that reached the U.K. Supreme Court.
The US petitioned British officials to extradite Assange so he can be put on trial for 17 charges of espionage and one charge of computer misuse with regards to WikiLeaks’ publication of a vast number of sensitive documents over a decade ago. American prosecutors argued that Assange unlawfully assisted US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in stealing classified diplomatic cables and military files that WikiLeaks would later be widely disseminated. They argued that such actions put many lives at risk.
Various independent journalist organizations and human rights groups have demanded the UK to not follow through with the US’s extradition request.
Assange’s backers and legal counsel contend that he was carrying out journalistic functions, which should be covered by First Amendment protections. His publication of documents that shed light on the US military’s dirty laundry in Afghanistan and Iraq is at the heart of this dispute. Assange’s supporters contend that this entire case is politically charged.
Assange’s lawyers revealed that he could face up to 175 years in prison if he receives a conviction in the U.S. Since 2019, Assange has been held in Britain’s high-security Belmarsh Prison in London, when British authorities arrested him for skipping bail in a different legal battle.
Prior to his arrest, Assange spent seven years inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to avoid being extradited to Sweden, where he was expected to face allegations of rape and sexual assault.
Sweden ended up dropping Assange’s alleged sex crime investigations in November 2019 due to how much time had passed since the allegations were formally launched against him.
Assange’s info dumps played a critical role in making failed presidential candidate Hilary Clinton look like a corrupt parasite during the 2016 presidential elections.
Unfortunately, former President Donald Trump did not return the favor by pardoning Assange for doing real journalism. This could be explained by the residual neoconservative influence within the Trump administration.
Should Trump get back on the win column in 2024, he must make the pardoning of Assange one of his key policy priorities.
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