What did Julian Assange do and what happens now he can be extradited to US?

Following the US government win, Assange’s lawyers will try to get his case heard in the Supreme Court

Holly Bancroft
Friday 10 December 2021 18:10
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<p>Julian Assange is in custody in Belmarsh prison  </p>

Julian Assange is in custody in Belmarsh prison

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The US government has won a High Court bid to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to America.

Mr Assange is wanted in the United States over the publication of thousands of classified documents in 2010 and 2011.

The US was appealing a court ruling from January that said Mr Assange would not be extradited due to concerns over this mental health. The American authorities assured the court that Mr Assange would not face highly restrictive prison conditions if he were allowed to travel to the United States. They said that strict measures would only be used if Mr Assange committed any further acts that would merit them.

Mr Assange’s fiancée Stella Morris condemned the new ruling as “dangerous and misguided” and said that the US assurances were “inherently unreliable”.

Who is Julian Assange and what did he do?

Julian Assange is the founder of WikiLeaks, an organisation that made headlines around the world in 2010 after it published a series of leaks provided by US army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.

The leaks included 75,000 documents related to the war in Afghanistan and around 390,000 army field reports relating to the war in Iraq.

WikiLeaks also published more than 250,000 diplomatic cables dated between 1996 and 2010, which provided insights into more than 270 US embassies around the world.

Julian Assange entered the Ecuadorian embassy in London in July 2019 after a court ruled that he should be extradited to Sweden. Swedish authorities had issued an arrest warrant for Mr Assange following sexual assault allegations.

Mr Assange requested political asylum in the embassy and said he would not leave even if the sex allegations were dropped because of fears that the US also wanted to extradite him.

On 11 April 2019, Mr Assange was arrested after the Ecuadorian government withdrew his asylum and he was taken into custody by UK police.

What has his court battle been about?

Mr Assange has been battling to stop his extradition to the United States.

In January 2021 district judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled that Mr Assange should not be sent to the US, citing an “oppressive” risk of suicide.

The US authorities then brought a High Court challenge to that judgment and have now had it successfully overturned in the High court.

Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett and Lord Justice Holroyde found that judge Baraitser had based her decision on the risk of Mr Assange being held in highly restrictive prison conditions if extradited.

Lord Burnett said that, following assurances made by the US, they were now satisfied that Mr Assange could be extradited.

What happens now that the US has won its appeal?

Julian Assange’s lawyers will try to take his case to the Supreme court. In a statement on Friday, Mr Assange’s legal team said: “On behalf of Mr Assange, his lawyers will be seeking permission to appeal this decision to the Supreme Court; the application to do so has to be made in writing within 14 days.

“Any such appeal to the Supreme Court would relate to the question of the assurances. Appeals on other important questions, including questions of free speech and on the political motivation of the US extradition request, have yet to be considered by an appeal court.”

Speaking outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Julian Assange’s fiancée, Stella Morris, said: “We will fight. Every generation has an epic fight to fight and this is ours, because Julian represents the fundamentals of what it means to live in a free society, of what it means to have press freedom, of what it means for journalists to do their jobs without being afraid of spending the rest of their lives in prison.”

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