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WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Wins Temporary Reprieve From US Extradition

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Julian Assange WikiLeaks

The extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from Britain was put on hold on Tuesday after London’s High Court ruled that the United States must provide assurances that he will not face the death sentence.

U.S. prosecutors want to try Assange, 52, on 18 counts, all but one under the Espionage Act, for releasing sensitive U.S. military records and diplomatic cables through WikiLeaks.

After Britain approved his extradition last year, Assange’s lawyers filed a final appeal in English courts in February to oppose the decision.

In their written order, which Assange’s wife Stella described as “utterly bizarre,” two senior justices provisionally permitted him to file a full appeal against extradition on three grounds, but only if the U.S. failed to provide “satisfactory assurances” on the problems presented.

Assange, who was born in Australia, may not be able to rely on the First Amendment right to free speech as a non-US national, and while none of the current charges carry the death penalty, he may face a capital offense such as treason in the future, making extradition illegal.

Assange’s lawyers had cited former U.S. President Donald Trump’s comment in 2010 when addressing WikiLeaks, that “I think there should be like a death penalty or something,” according to the judgment.

The court requested U.S. authorities to provide assurances on these concerns, stating that if they did not do so by April 16, Assange would be granted permission to appeal.

Plot to Assassinate Julian Assange

However, they rejected his lawyers’ claims that the prosecution was politically motivated or that he would not receive a fair trial. They also stated that if he is granted an appeal, his claim that CIA officials plotted to abduct or assassinate him will not be considered.

A new hearing has been scheduled for May 20, with his extradition, which his campaign team indicated may be imminent depending on the outcome, placed on hold.

Wikileaks rose to popularity in 2010 after it released a U.S. military video of a 2007 attack by Apache helicopters in Baghdad that killed a dozen people, including two Reuters journalists.

It then leaked thousands of secret classified files and diplomatic cables that included frequently harshly critical U.S. assessments of international leaders, which the U.S. claimed endangered the lives of its agents.

Assange’s numerous followers celebrate him as an anti-establishment hero who, despite his journalistic credentials, is being persecuted for exposing U.S. misconduct and suspected war crimes.

Appeal to the European Court of Human Rights

According to U.S. officials, he is being charged with conspiring with former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to unlawfully obtain the disclosed data rather than publishing them.

Assange has already spent more than 13 years fighting various legal cases in Britain, seven of which he spent locked up within the Ecuadorean Embassy in London after skipping bail and the last five in a maximum-security prison.

His brother, Gabriel Shipton, stated that he was in “rapidly deteriorating physical and mental health”.

“I’m surprised by this decision. Stella Assange, who married WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange while he was in prison, told Reuters that the lawsuit should have been dismissed. “Julian remains at risk of extradition, at risk of the death penalty, at risk of 175 years in prison.”

While Assange’s lawyer, Jen Robinson, stated that U.S. promises “aren’t worth the paper they’re written on” based on previous cases, Nick Vamos, the former head of extradition at Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service, stated that the guarantees should be easy for the U.S. to supply.

“I think the U.S. government will have little difficulty in providing these assurances and Mr Assange’s extradition will finally be ordered,” he said. If the High Court upholds the extradition order, Assange’s final fight will be an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to halt it.

Source: Reuters

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