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British Court Orders Julian Assange’s Extradition To U.S. on Espionage Charges

A British judge on Wednesday issued an order to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States where he faces charges of espionage, marking the latest step towards Assange facing a trial in the U.S. despite his years-long legal fight against being sent back.

Assange faces criminal espionage charges in the U.S. over WikiLeaks’ publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked classified documents relating to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He denies wrongdoing and has fought extradition in London for years, first in Ecuador’s embassy for seven years to avoid extradition to Sweden on allegations of rape and sexual assault and since 2019 in the high-security Belmarsh Prison after Ecuador revoked his diplomatic status.

A British judge initially ruled in favor of Assange on grounds a U.S. extradition request would place him at risk of harming himself in the harsh American prison conditions. U.S. authorities denied Assange would be at risk and assured Britain he would be treated well.

In December the U.K.’s High Court overturned the decision. In March, the U.K.’s highest court, the Supreme Court, refused Assange permission to appeal the lower court’s ruling in favor of extradition.

The extradition order will need final approval from British Home Secretary Priti Patel and Assange, who joined the hearing virtually, has four weeks to make submissions to Patel, who must approve or reject the U.S. government’s request.

The decision, as with others in favor of Assange’s extradition, sparked criticism from press freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RSF), who said Assange has been “targeted” for an “important contribution to journalism… exposing war crimes and human rights violations.”

His extradition and prosecution “would set a dangerous precedent for journalism and press freedom around the world,” the group said after the ruling, launching a petition calling on Patel to reject the extradition request.

 

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