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British court delays extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to US


A demonstrator holds a placard after Stella Assange, wife of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, issued a statement outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Tuesday.

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A demonstrator holds a placard after Stella Assange, wife of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, issued a statement outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Tuesday.

Alberto Pezzali/AP

LONDON — Julian Assange is not traveling to the United States — at least not immediately.

In a partial victory for the WikiLeaks founder, London’s High Court on Tuesday delayed plans to extradite him to the United States, where he faces espionage charges over one of the biggest national security leaks in U.S. history.

Assange’s lawyers asked the court to grant his final appeal against extradition.

A two-judge panel deferred a verdict on the matter. Instead, it gave the U.S. government three weeks to ensure Assange would get a fair trial. Otherwise, the appeal could proceed, the justices wrote.

“If these assurances are not given then leave to appeal will be granted and an appeal hearing will then take place.” summary of judgment Published on the UK Judiciary website.

The judges said they would hold another hearing on May 20 to evaluate such assurances from U.S. officials.

Tuesday’s verdict means Assange remains in legal limbo, being held in a high-security prison on the edge of London. He has been there for five years after spending seven years at the Ecuadorian embassy.

Who is Julian Assange and what is WikiLeaks?

Assange, 52, from Australia. As a teenager, he became a skilled computer programmer and later a hacker, who was arrested in the mid-1990s. He went on to found WikiLeaks in 2006 – a platform where whistleblowers from around the world can publish leaked documents or documents. The organization has partnered with traditional media outlets around the world to review and publish material.

wikileaks call yourself Multimedia organizations and libraries that publish censored or otherwise restricted official material dealing with war, espionage, and corruption.

But it’s also controversial.U.S. government officials said the platform life is threatened when it released classified documents about the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. During the 2016 U.S. presidential election, there were reported that U.S. officials have evidence that Russia provided WikiLeaks with emails stolen by Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Why was Assange accused of espionage?

The case dates back to the 2010 release by WikiLeaks of hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. government documents related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This included a now-infamous document that was classified at the time. video In 2007, a U.S. helicopter attack in Baghdad killed about 12 people, including two Reuters journalists.

For many Americans, the footage provided a window into the nature of the war in Iraq. It was part of the largest security breach of its kind in the United States.

Chelsea Manning, the U.S. Army intelligence analyst who leaked the documents, served seven years in prison before being released by then-President Barack Obama.

But Assange was not pardoned.On the contrary, the United States A grand jury indicted him In 2019, he was charged with 17 counts of espionage and one count of computer misuse. His lawyer said he faces up to 175 years in prison if convicted.

Julian Assange gestures to the media from a police car as he arrives at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London on April 11, 2019.

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Julian Assange gestures to the media from a police car as he arrives at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London on April 11, 2019.

Jack Taylor/Getty Images

He is also suspected of sexual assault

That’s why he was arrested in the first place. Assange was arrested in London in 2010 at Sweden’s request and two women accused him of rape and sexual assault.

He denies any wrongdoing. Assange said at the time that he believed the case was a ruse to have him detained by police and then extradited to the United States. So he was released on bail in that case and took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy, ​​where he stayed for seven years.

After Ecuadorian authorities expelled him In 2019, he came out of the British Embassy and was arrested by the British police for violating the terms of his bail.

Swedish charges Has since been deletedBut he still faces charges in the United States.

What Assange’s lawyers say

Assange’s lawyer argued his client’s life would be in danger if Assange was extradited to the United States

Assange’s wife Stella Assange in an interview last month Tell NPR She worries about Assange’s physical and mental health if he is placed in solitary confinement in a U.S. prison.

She said: “Julian’s life is at risk. If he is quarantined, he will be forced to commit suicide.”

Stella Assange also said in an interview outside London’s High Court on Tuesday that she was disappointed with the judge’s ruling.

Human rights activist Stella Assange, wife of Julian Assange, leaves the High Court during Julian Assange’s trial in London on February 21.

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Human rights activist Stella Assange, wife of Julian Assange, leaves the High Court during Julian Assange’s trial in London on February 21.

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“I find it shocking,” she said. “Julian is a political prisoner. He is a journalist and he is being persecuted because he exposed the true cost of war in human life.” She said, apparently Referring to the Iraq and Afghanistan war files released by WikiLeaks.

Defense lawyers say the case against Assange is politically motivated. They said it was impossible for the U.S. government, which had humiliated and embarrassed Assange over the war leaks, to give him a fair trial.

Furthermore, they called his prosecution an attack on press freedom.

While Assange started out as a hacker, he now considers himself a publisher and calls WikiLeaks media organization.

Reporters Without Borders and other press freedom groups say that if Assange is convicted under the U.S. Espionage Act, it would set a dangerous precedent for other journalists to be charged with criminal offenses for publishing leaked documents – even if it is in the public interest.

Jameel Jaffer, CEO of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, said Tuesday’s ruling showed the U.S. government should drop Espionage Act charges against Assange.

“Prosecuting Assange for publishing classified information would have far-reaching consequences for press freedom, as publishing classified information is something journalists and news organizations routinely do to expose government misconduct.”

What do US authorities and British judges say?

The United States does not consider Assange a journalist. U.S. prosecutors say he endangered the lives of Iraqis, Afghans and others on the ground when he released a trove of U.S. military documents in 2010.

Still, U.S. officials have promised Assange will receive a fair trial and will not be tortured. The High Court has now given them three weeks to provide further assurances.

The London judge asked U.S. authorities to ensure Assange is protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects free speech; that he will not be specifically discriminated against because of his “nationality” (Australian); and that if he is convicted of espionage, The death penalty will not be imposed.



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