The high court in London has ruled that Wikileaks founder and journalist Julian Assange can be extradited to the United States, overturning a judgment earlier this year.
The judgment today — International Human Rights Day — issued by the Court of Appeal in London, marks a dangerous day for media freedom around the world.
Executive Director of ARTICLE 19, Quinn McKew said:
“The decision to extradite Mr Assange to the US to face espionage charges directly threatens media freedom.
The US prosecution does no more and no less than criminalise those who gather news and expose serious human rights violations and crimes. The UK government should not support this.
This judgment means that all those who pursue and reveal human rights abuses by the US and other powerful entities are now at serious risk of extradition and prosecution.
The irony is that at this moment, President Biden is holding a Summit for Democracy that sets out the importance of a free press, while simultaneously seeking to continue a legal case that threatens the foundations of investigative journalism in the US.
We call on President Joe Biden and the US Attorney General to dismiss the underlying indictment on espionage changes Julian Assange and demonstrate the leadership we need to protect journalists and freedom of expression.”
The judgment follows on from the appeal launched by the US government against the ruling from Judge Vanessa Baraitser in January 2021, which confirmed that Assange could not be extradited on mental health grounds to face charges of espionage and of hacking government computers under the US’ Espionage Act. She said that if Assange was taken to a high security prison in the US, he was likely to take his own life.
Prior to this, there were allegations in 2017 that the Donald Trump administration, spearheaded by Mike Pompeo, director of the CIA at the time, had plotted to kidnap Assange, and even assassinate him. Pompeo viewed Wikileaks as a “non-state hostile intelligence service” and had launched surveillance operations against Wikileaks employees and Assange.
Since his arrest at the Ecuadorian embassy in April 2019, Assange has been held in the UK’s high security Belmarsh prison.
Assange’s fiancee stated that his legal team will pursue further legal avenues, and it is expected that the team will next lodge a case with the Supreme Court, followed by an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.