Home Technology Julian Assange Won’t Be Extradited to the US Yet

Julian Assange Won’t Be Extradited to the US Yet


The UK high court has extended WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s hope to avoid espionage charges in the United States, allowing Assange to further challenge his extradition from the UK to the US.

In a ruling issued in London on Tuesday, two high court judges said that Assange will not be immediately extradited to the United States. In a press summary of the 60-page decision, the court said Assange has a “real prospect of success” in appealing his extradition order and it requires the US and UK to make further “assurances” about his treatment if he were to be extradited.

“The Court has given the Government of the United States three weeks to give satisfactory assurances: that Mr Assange is permitted to rely on the First Amendment to the United States Constitution (which protects free speech), that he is not prejudiced at trial (including sentence) by reason of his nationality, that he is afforded the same First Amendment protections as a United States citizen and that the death penalty is not imposed,” the press summary says.

Assange’s extradition was first authorized by the British government in June 2022, more than three years after his arrest. The appeals process was repeatedly delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic and Assange’s own deteriorating health, a result, his doctors say, of his prolonged pretrial confinement and his previous stay in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he lived under asylum for nearly seven years.

The embattled WikiLeaks founder faces an 18-count indictment in the US, which alleges a conspiracy to commit computer crimes and, most significantly, violations of the Espionage Act for soliciting and publishing classified information related primarily to the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For Assange, his supporters, and the US government, Tuesday’s ruling has been a long time coming, culminating more than four years of legal battles in the UK. The extensive delay inevitably gave rise to a flood of analysis and conjecture from legal scholars, human rights defenders, and envoys of the US intelligence system, spawning myriad theories about the ultimate repercussions of his potential capture, trial, and imprisonment.

Free press advocates have argued the charges against Assange amount to an attack on legal journalistic activities, portrayed by prosecutors as crimes against the state. The right of journalists to publish stolen or leaked information, even when classified “secret,” has been repeatedly affirmed by the US Supreme Court.

US prosecutors allege that Assange in 2010 took matters a step further than what is legally permitted, encouraging then-WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning to violate the law further by stealing additional files, and by offering to help her crack a hashed password that would have, ostensibly, furthered her access inside a classified Defense Department network.

Though it is unclear whether any of Assange’s offers actually aided Manning or resulted in any additional files being leaked, under the scope of US law, legal experts widely agree, success is beside the point.

Manning, a former US Army intelligence analyst, confessed during a court martial in 2013 to leaking more than 725,000 documents to WikiLeaks, though her conviction pertains only to portions of hundreds of documents. Manning was accused but acquitted of “aiding the enemy.” Her 35-year prison sentence was commuted in January 2017 by former US president Barack Obama in one of his final acts of office.

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