Julian Assange’s Extradition to the U.S. Halted by British Court

John Gomez / shutterstock.com
John Gomez / shutterstock.com

On Tuesday, Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, received authorization from a British court to challenge his extradition to the United States, where he faces espionage charges.

Issued by the Royal Courts of Justice in London, the judgment grants Assange the chance to seek a new hearing. This opportunity hinges on the condition that the U.S. delivers “satisfactory assurances” addressing his appeal’s concerns.

The United States has been given a three-week time frame by the court to ensure that Julian Assange is allowed to exercise the First Amendment (even though he is not a U.S. citizen) regarding expression and freedom of speech, will not be subjected to trial bias based on his nationality, will be granted the same level of First Amendment safeguards as that of a U.S. citizen, and will not be exposed to the possibility of the death penalty.

Should these assurances not be forthcoming, an appeal hearing will be sanctioned. A subsequent session on May 20 will evaluate whether the U.S.’s assurances are acceptable, as per the court’s directive.

Assange, 52, has been fighting against extradition for over ten years. In addition to seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, he spent nearly five years in Belmarsh, a maximum-security prison not far from London.

The U.S. is seeking Assange’s extradition on 18 charges. One is under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and the other 17 charges are under the Espionage Act. The combined charges hold a maximum potential of 175 years, but the U.S. government predicts a sentence with a smaller range, potentially as low as four to six years. The charges came after WikiLeaks disclosed numerous confidential military documents and diplomatic cables concerning the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

Stella Assange, Julian Assange’s wife, was seen outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, awaiting the verdict on whether her husband’s final appeal against his extradition to the United States would proceed.

The U.S. asserts the charges stem from Assange’s supposed involvement in one of the most significant classified information leaks in the country’s history.

U.S. authorities seek to put Assange on trial for the release of confidential military files and diplomatic cables. Assange also faces accusations of plotting to infiltrate military databases to obtain classified information. Assange has denied wrongdoing, and his lawyers have said the case against him is politically motivated.

As a teenager, Mr. Assange established a notable reputation in computer programming. In 1995, facing hacking charges in his home country of Australia, he was fined but managed to avoid jail time by pledging not to engage in similar activities again. By 2006, Mr. Assange went on to create the WikiLeaks website. WikiLeaks first came into the global spotlight in 2010 after releasing footage of a 2007 U.S. helicopter attack in Baghdad that resulted in the deaths of two Reuters news personnel and others.

Upon the initial release of the footage, WikiLeaks continued to unveil a series of consequential disclosures of classified information. These leaks frequently placed the United States government in precarious positions. These disclosures often covered various topics, from military operations to diplomatic cables, and ignited a global conversation about transparency and government accountability.

The court’s decision evoked a significant public reaction, with many Assange supporters gathering outside the Royal Courts of Justice to demand his release.

Stella Assange shared her surprise with the media regarding the court’s verdict. She emphasized that the court acknowledged some of the issues Julian faces, including violations of freedom of expression, discrimination based on nationality, and the possibility of facing the death penalty. However, she found it remarkable that the court decided to seek a political resolution from the United States.

As reported by WikiLeaks on the X social media platform, Julian Assange could not attend a two-day hearing at London’s High Court in February due to severe health issues.