The British government gave its approval on Friday to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States, saying it was convinced he would be entitled to a fair trial across the Atlantic.
Posted at 12:05 AM
Home Secretary Priti Patel formally approved the April order against the notorious whistleblower, marking a major step in a long series of legal twists and turns.
She ignored the advice of a group of several hundred doctors who asked her in a letter last week not to be complicit in the “slow execution” of the Australian.
Members of Physicians for Assange noted that the 50-year-old suffered a “mini-heart attack” in custody in October 2021 and suffers from psychological problems that put him at risk of suicide if extradited.
These concerns led a lower court to reject the US request, but the decision was overturned on appeal after Washington provided assurances about how it would be treated.
The Home Office notably recalled those assertions on Friday, stressing that the courts had dismissed the notion that Julian Assange’s extradition would be “unfair” or “offensive”.
His lawyers have 14 days to appeal the decision.
Espionage charges dating back to 2010
The WikiLeaks founder faces a series of espionage charges in the United States over his role in obtaining by ex-military Chelsea Manning secret documents relating to US military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan and thousands of diplomatic cables.
The administration of former President Barack Obama, deeply embarrassed by the release of the diplomatic cables, has renounced its pursuit, but the administration of his successor, Donald Trump, has overruled those reservations.
Current US President Joe Biden has not changed course despite strong pleas from Julian Assange’s supporters to drop the charges and request an extradition.
Julian Assange’s wife, Stella Morris, said in a press conference broadcast online Friday that the minister’s decision risks “extremely serious consequences” for her husband as well as for the journalism profession in general.
She warned that the battle was “far from being lost” even if the legal setbacks were multiplied and that possible remedies were practically exhausted.
I will spend every waking hour fighting until Julian is free and justice is served.
Stella Morris, wife of Assange
WikiLeaks executives also tweeted that they would continue to firmly oppose the US extradition request.
They denounced that the United States is seeking to avenge the war crimes denounced by Julian Assange by “trying to hide him in the darkest recesses of its prison system” and at the same time wanting to dissuade anyone else from the restriction.
Support also came from politicians in Britain and abroad.
Jean-Luc Melenchon, who heads a coalition of left-wing parties likely to do well in the second round of France’s legislative elections, has promised to naturalize Julian Assange if he becomes prime minister.
The new Australian government, which was recently formed, has asserted that the proceedings against the whistleblower have gone on “for too long and should end” without explicitly asking the US justice system to waive extradition.
Julian Assange says he has feared for years that he would be sent to the United States. He also mentioned this reason in 2012 to explain his decision to seek refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London.
The WikiLeaks founder, who was facing an extradition request from Sweden over unresolved sexual assault allegations, feared the Scandinavian country would turn him over to US authorities.
Ultimately, he was arrested by British forces in 2019 with Ecuadorean consent and held for breaching terms before he could be targeted by the US extradition request.
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