Friday, 17 June 2022 19:56

UK approves Assange extradition to US, WikiLeaks says it will appeal Featured

Julian Assange faces extradition to the US. Julian Assange faces extradition to the US. Pixabay

British Home Secretary Priti Patel has approved the extradition of WikiLeaks founder and publisher Julian Assange to the US to face criminal charges there. The extradition order was issued on 20 April and sent to Patel for her approval.

The announcement was made on Friday evening, ending a long-running saga after the Australian hacker was arrested in 2019 and jailed at the maximum security prison in Belmarsh after he had been given refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for seven years.

The Home Office said Assange could still appeal the decision. WikiLeaks said he would do so.

"In this case, the UK courts have not found that it would be oppressive, unjust or an abuse of process to extradite Mr Assange," the Home Office said in a statement.

"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 US he will be treated appropriately, including in relation to his health."

Assange can appeal the extradition at London's High Court but he needs to do so in 14 days after first getting the court's approval to challenge the decision.

If that fails, he can try to approach the UK Supreme Court. In the event that an appeal is refused, he has to be extradited in 28 days.

In a statement, WikiLeaks said: "This is a dark day for press freedom and for British democracy. Anyone who cares about freedom of expression should be deeply ashamed that the Home Secretary has approved the extradition of Julian Assange to the US, the country that has plotted his assassination."

After Australia elected a Labor government in May, there have been hopes that Prime Minister Anthony Albanese would intervene in the case and try to get Assange sent back to Australia.

Albanese hinted before the election that Assange's protracted judicial proceedings should be ended. When he was asked about it recently, he responded that diplomacy was not conducted over a megaphone.

Assange faces criminal charges in the US for publishing classified information that was leaked to WikiLeaks by an American soldier, then known as Bradley Manning, but now, after gender reassignment surgery, known as Chelsea Manning.

On 14 March, the UK Supreme Court had rejected an appeal from Assange to hear arguments against his extradition.

In January, the High Court refused a request from Assange's lawyers to appeal directly to the Supreme Court, leaving it to the higher court to decide on whether it would hear a challenge.

On 10 December 2021, a two-bench High Court panel reversed a 4 January lower court verdict the same year to deny the US the right to extradite Assange to try him on criminal charges in Washington.

British District Judge Vanessa Baraister had ruled in January 2021 that Assange should not be extradited, saying the risk he would commit suicide in a US jail was too high.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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