Britain orders extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to US, where he could face 175 years in prison

The British government has ordered the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States to face espionage charges – a milestone, but not the end of a decade-long legal saga.

EcLeaks said it will challenge the order and has 14 days to file an appeal.

“Today is not the end of the fight. This is only the beginning of a new legal battle,” said Assange’s wife, Stella Assange. He said Britain’s decision marked “a dark day for press freedom and British democracy”.

“Julian didn’t do anything wrong,” she said. “He has not committed any crime and is not a criminal. He is a journalist and publisher, and he is being punished for doing his job.”

British Interior Minister Priti Patel today signed an order authorizing Assange’s extradition to the US, where he faces allegations of WikiLeaks publishing a vast set of classified documents.

In April a British court ruled that Assange could be deported to the US, where he faces trial on 17 counts of espionage and one charge of computer abuse.

US prosecutors say Assange illegally helped US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal confidential diplomatic cables and military files later published by WikiLeaks, putting her life at risk.

The UK Home Office said in a statement that “the UK courts have not found that it would be oppressive, unjust or abuse of process to extradite Mr Assange,” and so the government had to approve the extradition.

“Nor have they found that extradition would be inconsistent with their human rights, including their right to a fair trial and freedom of expression, and that they would be treated fairly with respect to their health in the US,” it said. ,

Supporters and lawyers of 50-year-old Assange argue that he was entitled to First Amendment protection of freedom of speech for working as a journalist and publishing documents exposing US military wrongdoings in Iraq and Afghanistan .

He argues that his case is politically motivated and that he may not get a fair trial in the US.

A British judge approved the extradition in April, leaving the final decision to the government. The decision comes after a legal battle that lasted till Britain. Supreme court.

A British district court judge initially rejected the extradition request on the grounds that Assange could kill himself if kept in harsh US prison conditions.

US officials later assured that the WikiLeaks founder would not face severe treatment that his lawyers said would threaten his physical and mental health. Those assurances prompted Britain’s High Court and Supreme Court to reverse the lower court’s decision.

Journalists’ organizations and human rights groups called on Britain to reject the extradition request. Assange’s lawyers say he could face up to 175 years in prison if convicted in the US, though US officials have said any sentence could be much less.

Amnesty International Secretary-General Agnes Callamard said today that Assange’s extradition would “put him at great risk and send a cold message to journalists around the world.”

“If extradition goes ahead, Amnesty International is extremely concerned that Assange is at high risk of prolonged solitary confinement, which would violate a ban on torture or other ill-treatment,” she said.

“The diplomatic assurance provided by the US that Assange will not be kept in solitary confinement cannot be taken at face value, given past history.”

Assange has been lodged in Britain’s high-security Belmarsh Prison in London since 2019, when he was arrested for not granting bail during a separate legal battle.

Before that, she spent seven years inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden to face charges of rape and sexual assault.

Sweden dropped the sex crimes investigation in November 2019 because so much time had passed.

In March, Assange and his partner Stella Morris, who have two sons together, married in a prison ceremony.