Today, London’s Westminster Magistrates’ Court announced its formal order to extradite the Wikileaks founder, Australian-born journalist, Julian Assange, to the United States where he is wanted on espionage charges.
The court’s decision reverses its previous ruling that denied the extradition to the US based on Assange’s poor mental state. UK Home Secretary Priti Patel will need to authorize the extradition before it can be executed.
The previous British rejection of the extradition request was issued by the same court in January 2021. The American side successfully appealed the decision by challenging the testimony of defense experts, and by offering to give formal assurances that Assange would not be put under the worst security regime during his prosecution in the US.
Julian Assange is now facing up to 175 years in US prison under the espionage charges, if the extradition decision is signed off by the British Home Secretary.
According to WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson, the UK court was issuing an effective “death sentence” to Assange by passing its decision for he is facing an effective life term in American prison.
Assange’s legal defense team said it will make representations to Secretary Patel, asking for a chance to make an appeal against the court order. The lawyers said they may appeal to the High Court, even if the secretary grants the extradition.
Assange, who is best known for his organization’s pro-transparency activism and its publication of leaked classified documents, which has exposed the dark secrets of many governments, has been in British custody since April 2019.
He is kept at the high-security Belmarsh prison, dubbed “British Guantanamo” for its role as the incarceration site of the most dangerous criminals in the UK. He had previously spent seven years locked inside Ecuador’s embassy in London, before a new government in Quito revoked his asylum.
During his self-exile at the embassy, the US unsealed its case against Assange and filed a request to the UK to hand him over for prosecution.
On March 23, Assange married Stella Moris, with whom he has two children. The ceremony was conducted inside the prison, and only a limited group of people was allowed to attend.
Assange has denied all the charges against him, with his legal defense team arguing that he had not been under US jurisdiction when Wikileaks published a trove of State Department cables and Pentagon documents that depicted alleged war crimes committed by US forces in Afghanistan and Iraq and had engaged in completely legal journalism.
They also deny allegations of conspiring to hack Pentagon computers, insisting that the case is based on discredited testimony of the convicted Icelandic criminal.