Julian Assange’s Extradition Battle Nears Conclusion in UK Court

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s fight against extradition to the United States is reaching its final stages as he faces a crucial court hearing in London next week. The High Court has scheduled two days of arguments to determine whether Assange can appeal against his transfer to the US. If the appeal is denied, he could be extradited across the Atlantic. Assange’s deteriorating health has raised concerns, with his wife, Stella Assange, stating that his life is at risk every day he remains in prison. She fears that he will die if he is extradited.

Assange, a 52-year-old Australian computer expert, has been indicted in the US on 18 charges related to WikiLeaks’ publication of classified documents in 2010. Prosecutors allege that he conspired with US army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to hack into a Pentagon computer and release confidential diplomatic cables and military files on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The charges against Assange include 17 counts of espionage and one count of computer misuse. His lawyers argue that he acted as a journalist to expose US military wrongdoing and is protected under the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

Among the documents published by WikiLeaks was a video showing a 2007 Apache helicopter attack by American forces in Baghdad, resulting in the deaths of 11 people, including two Reuters journalists. Stella Assange emphasized that her husband has been indicted for revealing evidence of war crimes committed by the US government, asserting that reporting a crime should never be considered a crime.

US lawyers claim that Assange attempted to hack the Pentagon computer and that WikiLeaks’ publications posed a significant and immediate risk to US intelligence sources in Afghanistan and Iraq. Although the US criminal case against Assange was unsealed in 2019, his freedom has been restricted for over a decade. In 2012, he sought refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and was granted political asylum after facing extradition to Sweden for a rape investigation. However, he was arrested by British police in 2019 when Ecuador revoked his asylum status. Assange has remained in London’s high-security Belmarsh Prison while the extradition battle continues.

Initially, a judge in London blocked Assange’s transfer to the US due to concerns that he would commit suicide under harsh prison conditions. However, subsequent courts allowed the extradition process to proceed after US authorities provided assurances that Assange would not face severe treatment endangering his physical and mental health. Stella Assange and supporters have criticized these assurances as meaningless due to their conditional nature.

If the London court rejects Assange’s plea for a full appeal, he could be extradited to the US once British officials approve his removal. His legal team plans to appeal an adverse ruling to the European Court of Human Rights, but they fear that he may be transferred before the court in Strasbourg, France, can intervene. A favorable outcome at the upcoming hearing would prolong the case through an appeal process.

Assange’s wife, Stella, expressed concerns about his declining mental and physical health, noting that he has aged prematurely in prison. She revealed that he suffered a mini-stroke in October 2021 and broke a rib while coughing in December. The couple, who married in Belmarsh Prison almost two years ago, have two young sons who visit their father weekly, undergoing rigorous security checks. Stella Assange has shielded the children from the details of their father’s situation, believing it is unfair to burden them with the truth.

Author: CrimeDoor

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