U.K. court permits Assange extradition to U.S. on spying charges

Assange’s legal team to appeal court decision, says fiancée

December 10, 2021 05:14 pm | Updated 10:32 pm IST - LONDON

Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks. File

Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks. File

A British appellate court opened the door Friday for Julian Assange to be extradited to the United States by overturning a lower court ruling that found the WikiLeaks founder's mental health was too fragile to withstand the American criminal justice system.

The High Court in London ruled that U.S. assurances were enough to guarantee Assange would be treated humanely and directed a lower court judge to send the extradition request to the home secretary for review. The home secretary, who oversees law enforcement in the U.K., will make the final decision on whether to extradite Assange.

Also Read: Julian Assange | Enemy of the state

However, the appellate court ruling handed down on Friday is likely to be appealed.

A lower court judge earlier this year had refused an American request to extradite Assange to the U.S. to face spying charges over WikiLeaks’ publication of secret military documents a decade ago. District Judge Vanessa Baraitser denied extradition on health grounds, saying Assange was likely to kill himself if held under harsh U.S. prison conditions.

The United States appealed, challenging the notion that Assange’s mental health made him too vulnerable to withstand the U.S. judicial system. Lawyer James Lewis said Assange “has no history of serious and enduring mental illness” and does not meet the threshold of being so ill that he cannot resist harming himself.

U.S. authorities have told British judges that if they agree to extradite Assange, he could serve any U.S. prison sentence he receives in his native Australia.

U.S. prosecutors have indicted Assange on 17 espionage charges and one charge of computer misuse over WikiLeaks’ publication of thousands of leaked military and diplomatic documents. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison, although Lewis said “the longest sentence ever imposed for this offense is 63 months.”

Assange, 50, is currently being held at London’s high-security Belmarsh Prison.

Assange’s legal team would appeal a British appellate court’s decision to allow his extradition to the U.S., his fiancée, Stella Moris said.

“How can it be fair, how can it be right, how can it be possible, to extradite Julian to the very country which plotted to kill him?” she said. “We will appeal this decision at the earliest possible moment.”

Judge Timothy Holroyde said the case must now be remitted to Westminster Magistrates’ Court with the direction judges send it to Home Secretary Priti Patel to decide whether or not Mr. Assange should be extradited.

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