The UK’s High Court has approved the extradition of Julian Assange to the US. The decision reverses a ruling by a lower court in the UK that blocked the extradition on the grounds that imprisonment in the US was a threat to Assange’s mental health and increased his risk of suicide.
The US government has now successfully appealed this decision by offering a number of assurances to British judges. These include assurances that Assange won’t be held in a “supermax” high-security prison during pretrial or if convicted (unless he “commits any future act which renders him liable to such conditions of detention”) and that the US will allow Assange to serve any final sentence in his native Australia, if he wishes.
As reported by Sky News, Assange’s fiancee, Stella Moris, said: “We will appeal this decision at the earliest possible moment.” Moris said the ruling was a “grave miscarriage of justice.”
“How can it be fair, how can it be right, how can it be possible, to extradite Julian to the very country which plotted to kill him?” said Moris, referencing reports earlier this year that the CIA and Trump administration explored the possibility of kidnapping or assassinating Assange in 2017.
Assange has been indicted by US prosecutors on 18 counts, including 17 espionage charges and one charge of computer misuse. He’s accused of conspiring to hack into US military computers in order to publish confidential military and diplomatic documents on WikiLeaks. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison, though the US government claims the actual sentence will be between four and six years.
The documents published by WikiLeaks exposed US wrongdoings in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. These include the so-called “Collateral Murder” video, which showed US helicopter pilots in Baghdad killing a group of civilians including two Reuters journalists.
Groups including Reporters Without Borders and Amnesty International have called on the US to drop charges against Assange, saying that Assange’s work is legitimate journalism.
“Julian Assange’s publication of disclosed documents as part of his work with Wikileaks should not be punishable as this activity mirrors conduct that investigative journalists undertake regularly in their professional capacity,” says Amnesty. “Prosecuting Julian Assange on these charges could have a chilling effect on the right to freedom of expression, leading journalists to self-censor from fear of prosecution.”