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Assange granted temporary reprieve from extradition to U.S.


Demonstrators hold placards after Stella Assange, wife of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, released a statement outside the Royal Courts of Justice, in London on March 26, 2024.
| Photo Credit: Alberto Pezzali

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was granted a temporary reprieve from being extradited to the U.S. from the U.K., after the British High Court ruled on Tuesday that he would not be extradited immediately and gave the U.S. three weeks to provide assurances regarding the trial of Mr. Assange.

The U.S. wants to try the 52-year-old Australian on 18 counts, for obtaining and publishing sensitive U.S. military and diplomatic information. Seventeen of the charges against him are under the U.S.’s Espionage Act. Mr. Assange has been imprisoned in London since 2019 after spending approximately seven years in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he had sought refuge from extradition to Sweden on rape charges. The investigation was dropped by prosecutors in 2019 due to lack of sufficiently strong evidence.

Mr. Assange has sought an appeal of the U.K. government’s 2022 decision to extradite him on nine separate grounds. The High Court, which permits under-trials to appeal if it believes there are grounds to do so, said it was of the view that three of these grounds had a “real prospect of success” .

The court gave Washington three weeks to assure it that Mr. Assange would not face the death penalty (which is technically applicable in cases of treason under U.S. law). It also sought assurances that Mr. Assange, an Australian, would be able to rely on the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment (freedom of speech) rights during his trial and that the trial would not be prejudiced because he is not an American Citizen.

“It has given the Government of the United States of America and the Secretary of State an opportunity to offer assurances that would address those grounds of appeal,” the High Court said on Tuesday. If Washington’s response was not satisfactory, the court would allow Mr. Assange to appeal. A decision is expected on May 20, which means Mr. Assange will not be extradited at least until then.

Addressing the media outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Mr. Assange’s wife Stella Assange called the ruling “astounding”. She said that though the court had recognised the risks Mr. Assange was exposed to, it had sought a “political intervention” from the United States, asking Washington to declare, “It’s all okay. ”

The Biden administration should not issue assurances, Ms. Assange said, asking it instead to drop this “shameful case”. She called on people to support U.S. House of Representatives Resolution 934, which calls for dropping the case against her husband.

In its 2019 indictment, the U.S. had said that starting in 2009, Mr. Assange aided, abetted and caused a (then) intelligence officer, Chelsea Manning, to give him classified documents. The subsequent publication of these documents related to U.S. military activity in Afghanistan and Iraq put U.S. national security at risk and U.S. agents at “risk of serious physical harm” according to the U.S. government.



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