Politics

Julian Assange extradition decision: what you need to know

Two British judges are to decide Tuesday whether Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, will have the right to appeal a decision to extradite him to the United States, where he faces charges under the Espionage Act .

Mr. Assange has been held in a London prison since 2019, accused by the United States of violations related to obtaining and publishing classified government documents on WikiLeaks in 2010.

In April 2022, a London court ordered his extradition in the USA. Priti Patel, then British Home Secretary, approved extradition. Last month, two High Court judges heard Mr Assange’s latest appeal. The justices are expected to issue a written decision Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. local time (6:30 a.m. Eastern).

Here are the most likely scenarios.

In this case, Mr. Assange would be allowed to have his case heard on appeal before the British court on new grounds. This could open the door to a new decision regarding his extradition

This would mean that the court case, which has captured worldwide attention and mobilized press freedom advocates, will continue to be contested and that Mr. Assange’s removal to the United States will at least be delayed.

The extradition order was initially refused by a British judge in 2021, who ruled that Mr. Assange was at risk of suicide if he is sent to a US prison. The British High Court later overturned the decision after US officials gave assurances about the man’s treatment.

A Lower court judge rejects Mr Assange’s appeal request extradition order, and his lawyers asked the High Court to overturn the decision.

Mr. Assange could be put on a plane to the United States, his lawyers said, potentially ending a years-long battle.

But Mr Assange’s legal team has vowed to challenge an affirmative extradition decision at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. Britain is obliged to comply with the Court’s judgment as a signatory to the European convention of human rights. A court challenge could potentially halt his extradition until the case is heard in Strasbourg.

Mr. Assange was indicted in 2019 in Northern Virginia for a federal office of conspiracy to hack a Pentagon computer network in 2010. He was later indicted on 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act for his role in obtaining and publishing secret military and diplomatic documents.

The charges could carry a sentence of up to 175 years in prison if convicted, said his lawyers, who called the charges politically motivated. But US government lawyers, who said the leaks put lives at risk, said Mr Assange was more likely to receive a shorter sentence of four to six years.

Alice Jill Edwards, the United Nations special rapporteur on torture, said that if extradited, Mr. Assange would risk treatment amounting to torture or other forms of punishment.

In a statement last month, she said Mr Assange could face “prolonged solitary confinement, despite his precarious state of mental health, and a potentially disproportionate sentence”.

U.S. officials had previously assured that he would not be held in the United States’ most secure prison and that, if convicted, he could serve his sentence in his native Australia.

But Ms Edwards said these assurances are “not a sufficient guarantee”.

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