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British government orders extradition of Julian Assange; Appeal planned – Boston News, Weather, Sports

LONDON (AP) – The UK government on Friday ordered the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States on espionage charges, a milestone — but not the end — of a decades-long legal saga that has been fueled by the release of classified US data on its website was triggered documents.

WikiLeaks said it would challenge the order and Assange’s lawyers have 14 days to appeal.

“We’re not at the end of the road here,” Assange’s wife Stella Assange said. “We will fight against it.”

Julian Assange has fought for years in UK courts to avoid being sent to the US, where he faces 17 espionage charges and one charge of computer misuse.

American prosecutors say the Australian citizen helped US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal secret diplomatic cables and military files later released by WikiLeaks, risking lives in the process.

For his supporters, Assange, 50, is a journalist who has broken secrets and exposed US military misconduct in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A British court ruled in April that Assange could face trial in the US and referred the case to the British government for a decision. British Home Secretary Priti Patel signed an extradition order for Assange on Friday.

The Home Office said in a statement that the government had to authorize his move to the US because “the UK courts have not found that it would be oppressive, unfair or an abuse of procedure to extradite Mr Assange”.

Legal experts say the case could take months or even years to complete.

Assange’s lawyers said they would pursue new legal charges. “We will fight this to the end, if necessary to the European Court of Human Rights,” said attorney Jennifer Robinson.

Robinson called on US President Joe Biden to drop charges against Assange during Donald Trump’s presidency as they posed a “serious threat” to freedom of expression.

Assange’s supporters and lawyers claim he acted as a journalist and was entitled to the First Amendment protections of freedom of expression. They argue that the case is politically motivated, that he faces inhumane treatment and that he cannot get a fair trial in the US

Silkie Carlo, director of civil rights group Big Brother Watch, said the “UK government’s complicity in the political persecution of a journalist simply for revealing inconvenient truths to the public is appalling, wrong and shames our country”.

Stella Assange, a lawyer who married her husband in a prison ceremony in March, said the UK decision was “a dark day for press freedom and British democracy”.

“Julian did nothing wrong,” she said. “He has committed no crime and is not a criminal. He is a journalist and publisher and he is being punished for doing his job.”

Friday’s decision came after a legal battle that went all the way to the UK Supreme Court.

A British district judge initially rejected the extradition request, saying Assange was likely to kill himself if held in harsh US prison conditions. US authorities later assured that the WikiLeaks founder would not face the severe treatment his lawyers said would endanger his physical and mental health.

These assurances led the UK High Court and Supreme Court to overturn the lower court’s decision.

Journalist organizations and human rights groups had called on Great Britain to reject the extradition request. Assange’s lawyers say he faces up to 175 years in prison if convicted in the US, although US authorities have said any sentence is likely to be much less.

Amnesty International Secretary-General Agnes Callamard said Friday that extraditing Assange “would put him at great risk and send a chilling message to journalists around the world.”

“If extradition continues, Amnesty International is extremely concerned that Assange faces a high risk of being held in solitary confinement for prolonged periods, in violation of the prohibition on torture or other ill-treatment,” she said.

Assange remains in London’s maximum-security Belmarsh Prison, where he has been since his arrest in 2019 for skipping bail during a separate legal battle. Before that, he spent seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is accused of rape and sexual assault.

Sweden dropped the sex crimes investigation in November 2019 because of the time elapsed, but British judges have kept Assange in prison pending extradition proceedings.

(Copyright (c) 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed, or redistributed.)

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https://whdh.com/news/uk-govt-orders-julian-assanges-extradition-appeal-planned/ British government orders extradition of Julian Assange; Appeal planned – Boston News, Weather, Sports

Nate Jones

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