British court now says Assange may be extradited to the US
A British court has ruled in favor of extraditing Julian Assange to the United States after finding the founder of WikiLeaks will be treated fairly while facing espionage charges for divulging classified documents.
A lower court had considered back in January that Assange was at risk of suicide if he was handed over to US authorities to stand trial for the publication since 2010 of some 700,000 secret diplomatic and military documents, mainly related to the US-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Judge Vanessa Baraitser had blocked Assange’s extradition, but Washington appealed her ruling, arguing in October that Baraitser had not given enough weight to other expert testimony about the detainee’s mental state.
The specialists also assured the 50-year-old Australian would not be kept in punitive isolation in a maximum security prison, and that he would receive adequate treatment.
The higher court Friday considered that the United States has now provided the United Kingdom with a package of guarantees that respond to the specific conclusions that worried Baraitser.
The case will now be re-examined, at a date yet to be determined. Assange’s wife, lawyer Stella Moris, announced that they will appeal this new court decision.
Assange’s case has become a paradigmatic cause for defenders of freedom of expression. WikiLeaks argues that it has the same rights as other media to publish secret material, if it is in the public interest. But the US government, which has indicted him on 18 charges including espionage, claims that he is not a journalist but a hacker and that the release of documents without any filter had put the lives of his informants in danger.
If convicted, Assange could face up to 175 years in prison.
Following Friday’s decision, it is now up to Home Secretary Priti Patel to make the final call on whether to extradite Assange from Belmarsh prison to the US. The case may still be brought before the Supreme Court.
Moris said Friday’s ruling was a “grave miscarriage of justice” and vowed to “appeal this decision at the earliest possible moment.”
Amnesty International has called Friday’s court ruling a “travesty” because Washington’s assurances of humane treatment “are not worth the paper they are written on” and expressed concerns that Assange’s conditions in a US prison, if extradited, “could amount to torture.”