UK approves WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's extradition to US
In a blow to press freedom around the world, London bows to US pressure and approves the extradition request for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
UK Home Secretary Priti Patel has approved the US government's request to extradite Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange, according to her department.
The interior minister "must sign an extradition order if there are no grounds to prevent the (extradition) order from being made," and the courts had found none. Assange has 14 days to file an appeal, according to the Home Office.
In a blow to press freedom worldwide, British interior minister Priti Patel approved the extradition of #WikiLeaks' founder #JulianAssange.— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) June 17, 2022
This could make him face up to 175 years in prison for exposing #US war crimes in #Iraq and #Afghanistan.#FreeAssange pic.twitter.com/TyAnDSHUfq
A dark day for press freedom
In a tweet, WikiLeaks wrote that his extradition is a "dark day for press freedom and for British democracy. The decision will be appealed."
BREAKING: UK Home Secretary approves extradition of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange to the US where he would face a 175 year sentence - A dark day for Press freedom and for British democracy— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) June 17, 2022
The decision will be appealedhttps://t.co/m1bX8STSr8 pic.twitter.com/5nWlxnWqO7
The case was passed to the home secretary last month after the Supreme Court ruled that there were no legal issues with assurances given by US authorities about how he will be treated.
While Patel has given his approval and expects that a cross-appeal by Assange's legal team would restart the clock on a new legal battle.
It will almost certainly focus on issues such as the right to free expression and whether the extradition request is politically motivated. Patel was debating whether the US extradition request met the remaining legal requirements, which included a promise not to execute him.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Under the Extradition Act 2003, the secretary of state must sign an extradition order if there are no grounds to prohibit the order being made. Extradition requests are only sent to the home secretary once a judge decides it can proceed after considering various aspects of the case."
“On 17 June, following consideration by both the magistrates' court and high court, the extradition of Julian Assange to the US was ordered. Mr. Assange retains the normal 14-day right to appeal."
“In this case, the UK courts have not found that it would be oppressive, unjust, or an abuse of process to extradite Assange. Nor have they found that extradition would be incompatible with his human rights, including his right to a fair trial and to freedom of expression, and that whilst in the US he will be treated appropriately, including in relation to his health.”
Read next: Julian Assange: a Timeline
Can Assange handle extradition?
It is worth mentioning that last year, a defense lawyer for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange argued Thursday that US promises that Assange would not be subjected to harsh prison conditions if extradited were not enough to address concerns regarding his fragile mental health and high risk of suicide.
Assange's lawyer said the Australian was "too mentally ill" to be extradited to the US in light of his trial on "espionage charges."
Edward Fitzgerald, Assange's lawyer, argued that US 'assurances' were all "caveated, vague, or simply ineffective." He explained that they do not remove the risk of his detention in extreme isolation in the US in the long term. The risk of Assange killing himself remained substantial if he was extradited, he said.
"It is perfectly reasonable to find it oppressive to extradite a mentally disordered person because his extradition is likely to result in his death," he said. Fitzgerald also called on judges to use their power to protect people from extradition to a foreign state where "we have no control over what will be done to them."
Last year, The US government overturned a block on the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from Britain to face trial for publishing top-secret documents exposing war crimes perpetrated by the US and its allies across the globe, although options to appeal remain open to his legal team.
Washington presented the challenge after a lower court judge in London ruled in January that the 50-year-old journalist would be a suicide risk in the US justice system.
Assange’s fiancee, Stella Moris, denounced the decision as "grave miscarriage of justice," as quoted by Wikileaks on Twitter.
BREAKING: Ruling on the US's appeal against refusal to extradite Julian Assange will be given tomorrow, December 10th at 10.15am at the Court of Appeal in London #FreeAssangeNOW pic.twitter.com/ncVodVFoGp— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) December 9, 2021