The WikiLeaks founder faces a sentence of 175 years if sent out from Britain on charges of disclosing classified information
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s possible final appeal against extradition to the United States will be held at the High Court of Justice in London on February 20 and 21, according to a statement released by the media organization. He faces 17 charges under the Espionage Act and potentially a 175-year prison sentence. Two judges will review a ruling made in June, which had refused the journalist’s permission to make any further appeals.
This “may be the final chance for Julian Assange to prevent his extradition to the United States,” WikiLeaks said in a statement. On June 6, a UK High Court judge rejected all eight grounds for his motion, backing the 2020 extradition order. The judge also struck down parts of the January 2021 ruling, which had turned down Assange’s extradition due to concerns about risk of suicide and poor health. This possible final appeal will be the last opportunity to fight extradition in the UK. The next step for Assange’s lawyers could be to bring the case to the European Court of Human Rights.
“With the myriad of evidence that has come to light since the original hearing in 2019, such as the violation of legal privilege and reports that senior US officials were involved in formulating assassination plots against my husband, there is no denying that a fair trial, let alone Julian’s safety on US soil, is an impossibility were he to be extradited. The persecution of this innocent journalist and publisher must end,” the journalist’s wife, Stella Assange, whom he married while in prison, said in a statement.
Assange, 52, has been behind bars in London since 2019, when Ecuador revoked his asylum – reportedly at the request of the US – and turned him over to the British police. He had sought sanctuary at the Ecuadorian embassy in 2012. Following his arrest, the US charged Assange with espionage over the 2010 publication of classified military and State Department documents, which US prosecutors said had put lives in danger. The UK has since approved his extradition to the US.
Assange has been trying to overturn that decision, insisting that he violated no laws and that his publication of the classified documents was legitimate journalism protected by the US Constitution. The Espionage Act has never before been used to prosecute a journalist or media who published but did not steal classified material.
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