Assange to fight UK approval of extradition to US
Supporters of Julian Assange have pledged to resist his extradition to the US after Britain granted a US request for the Wikileaks founder to stand trial for exposing war crimes.
Supporters of Julian Assange pledged on Friday to resist his extradition to the US after Britain granted a US request for the Wikileaks founder to stand trial for leaking classified military data.
Stella Morris, the wife of Assange, said, "We're going to fight this. We're going to use every appeal avenue."
Assange's lawyer Jen Robinson urged the US President to drop the charges and said they would appeal to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.
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
The Assange case has become a cause celebre for media freedom, with advocates accusing Washington of attempting to stifle real security concerns.
The US claims it wants him to stand trial for breaching the US Espionage Act by disclosing military and diplomatic information in 2010. If proven guilty, he may face up to 175 years in prison, though the exact punishment is difficult to predict.
Read next: Julian Assange: a Timeline
The UK Interior Ministry had previously revealed that Home Secretary Priti Patel had accepted the extradition order, but he had 14 days to appeal.
The long-running legal saga began in 2010 after Assange published more than 500,000 documents classified in the US regarding war crimes committed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
His supporters have staged many protests against his deportation, accusing Washington of a politically motivated effort since Assange, 50, exposed US war crimes and a cover-up.
Wikileaks called the ruling a "dark day for press freedom and for British democracy," and said Assange was on a CIA assassination list.
In a statement, the group expressed that "Julian did nothing wrong. He has committed no crime and is not a criminal. He is a journalist and a publisher, and he is being punished for doing his job."
Extradition was an act of "revenge" and an attempt to "try to disappear him into the darkest recesses of their prison system for the rest of his life to deter others from holding governments to account."
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
A chilling message to journalists
According to Amnesty International, the government's confirmation of the extradition "sends a chilling message" to journalists and puts Assange at risk of torture and ill-treatment if he is detained in solitary prison.
Agnes Callamard, secretary-general of the Human Rights Monitor, said diplomatic guarantees that he would be treated decently were not to be trusted.
The Home Office claimed that there were no grounds for Patel to block the extradition order.
According to a spokesperson, "The UK courts have not found that it would be oppressive, unjust or an abuse of process to extradite Mr. Assange," adding "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."
According to legal experts, Assange's choice to appeal might result in months of judicial proceedings.
He would first require approval from the High Court to file an appeal. If that is allowed, the hearing may not take place until early next year.
Specialist Rebecca Niblock, from lawyers Kingsley Napley, explained that "extradition is a very lengthy process and it is very unlikely that this will be the end of it."
Can Assange handle extradition?
It is worth mentioning that last year, a defense lawyer for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange argued 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.