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US extradition bid in Assange case gets a legal boost - BBC

13.08.2021, 16:57
coe.int
coe.int

The United States has been given a boost in its bid to extradite Julian Assange, who is in prison in the UK, as BBC rerported.

In January, a court in London ruled he could not be extradited because of concerns over his mental health and the risk of suicide in the US.

A judge has now ruled the US government can be given more grounds to appeal against that decision.

US prosecutors want to put the Wikileaks founder on trial for hacking and disclosing classified information.

That includes the identities of informants who were helping intelligence agencies in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, in thousands of classified documents published in 2010 and 2011.

Mr Assange has previously said the case is politically motivated.

In January, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled that while US prosecutors had met the tests for Mr Assange to be extradited for trial, the US was incapable of preventing him from attempting to take his own life.

At the High Court earlier, the US gave the UK some assurances about his extradition.

It said Mr Assange would not be placed in ADX Florence, a supermax prison in Colorado, before trial, nor would he be subject to the harshest prison conditions, known in US law as Special Administrative Measures, at any point.

Both of those were on the condition that they could be imposed if, after these assurances are offered, Mr Assange did something that warranted them.

And the US said that, if he were convicted, he could serve his US sentence in Australia, where he is originally from.

The US was allowed to appeal against Judge Baraitser's decision on certain grounds, but Mr Assange's legal team described them as "narrow" and "technical".

 

The US government bid in the High Court earlier to expand the basis that can be used for its main appeal.

Lord Justice Holroyde said the full appeal would be heard at the High Court on 27 and 28 October.

Clair Dobbin QC, representing the US government, told the court that part of its appeal would focus on the requirement in law that, in order for a decision to be taken not to prosecute or extradite an individual, they must be "so ill" that they are unable to resist suicide.

"It really requires a mental illness of a type that the ability to resist suicide has been lost," she said.

"Part of the appeal will be that Mr Assange did not have a mental illness that came close to being of that nature and degree."

Mr Assange appeared via video-link , wearing a dark face covering and a white shirt, with what appeared to be an untied burgundy tie.

 

Outside the Royal Courts of Justice, former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told Mr Assange's supporters that the US government should "wind their necks in" and allow him to go free.

Mr Corbyn said Mr Assange was a reporter "in the tradition of fearless journalism" who had highlighted "a truth that was embarrassing to the US".

Mr Assange's partner, Stella Moris, was among supporters gathered outside. Some held banners reading "journalism is not a crime" and "no extradition".

A torn union flag with the words "truth on trial" was tied to the railings outside the court building.

Why is the UK involved?

The US has opposed releasing Mr Assange from Belmarsh Prison before the appeal is heard.

In 2019, he was jailed for 50 weeks for breaching bail conditions after going into hiding in the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

At the time he fled to the embassy, he had been facing extradition to Sweden on allegations of sexual assault, which he denied. That case was later dropped.

He sought refuge in the embassy for seven years from 2012 until he was arrested in April 2019.

What would Assange face in the US?

If convicted in the US, Mr Assange faces a possible penalty of up to 175 years in jail, his lawyers have said. However the US government said the sentence was more likely to be between four and six years.

Mr Assange faces an 18-count indictment from the US government, accusing him of conspiring to hack into US military databases to acquire sensitive secret information relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, which was then published on the Wikileaks website.

He says the information exposed abuses by the US military.

But US prosecutors say the leaks of classified material endangered lives, and so the US sought his extradition from the UK.

Extradition is the process under which one country can ask another to hand over a suspect to face trial.

BBC

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