In London, Assange’s last-ditch effort to prevent US extradition begins

by | Feb 20, 2024

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, launched what may be his final attempt to halt his extradition from Britain to the US on Tuesday in what is widely viewed as a politically motivated case and a source of concern for journalists worldwide.

Assange, 52, is being tried by U.S. prosecutors on 18 counts related to WikiLeaks ‘high-profile release of extensive collections of private military records and diplomatic cables.

They contend that his criminality cannot be justified because the leaks put their agents’ lives in danger. Supporters of Assange hail him as a journalist who exposes American wrongdoing and an anti-establishment hero.

“It is a track on all journalists worldwide,” Julian’s wife Stella told reporters outside the High Court in London. “It is an attack on the truth and the right of the public to know.”

She compared his situation to that of Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny, who passed away on Friday while incarcerated and serving a three-decade sentence.

Before being imprisoned in 2019 for violating bail conditions, Assange spent seven years hiding out in Ecuador's embassy in London after his legal battles started in 2010. Since then, he has been imprisoned in a maximum-security facility in southeast London and even got married there.

After a judge initially blocked it due to concerns about his mental health and the possibility of suicide if deported, Britain finally agreed to his extradition to the United States in 2022.

In what may be his last opportunity to halt his extradition in the English courts, his legal team is attempting to overturn that approval at a two-day hearing before two judges.

Assange was accused of violating the extradition treaty under the U.S. Espionage Act, and the case interfered with his right to free speech, according to his attorney Edward Fitzgerald.

According to Fitzgerald, Mr. Assange is being charged with using standard journalistic methods to gather and publish classified information that is accurate and of public interest.

The attorney who claimed Assange was not in court or remotely watching because he was ill added that it had justifiably concerned journalists throughout the world.

Fitzgerald claimed that there had been no consideration of a purported CIA plot to kidnap and poison Assange while he was in the Ecuadorean embassy and that, if found guilty, the sentence could be up to 175 years, but was likely to be between 30 and 40 years.

Amnesty International, media organizations, and Australian politicians, including Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who last week voted in favor of a motion calling for Assange's return to Australia, are among his supporters.

The U.S. attorneys claimed in their written submissions that Assange's legal team “consistently and repeatedly misrepresented” their case against him.

They claimed that he was being held accountable for helping Chelsea Manning, a former U.S. Army intelligence analyst, obtain the materials illegally, then disclosing their sources and “putting those people at grave risk of harm, “rather than for the publication of the leaked materials.

A full appeal hearing will be held to take Assange's challenge into consideration once more if he prevails in this case. Stella Assange stated that if he loses, his lawyers would ask the European judges for an emergency injunction. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) would be his only remaining option.

A U.S. military video depicting an Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad in 2007 that resulted in the deaths of 12 people, including two Reuters news staff, was the first thing WikiLeaks published in 2010.

Then it made thousands of top-secret diplomatic cables and classified files public, exposing harsh U.S. assessments of world leaders like Vladimir Putin of Russia and the royal family of Saudi Arabia.

Source: Reuters



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