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Explained: What now for Julian Assange after extradition order

Assange still has the right to appeal to the English High Court. If refused, Assange must be extradited within 28 days. He is currently being held at Belmarsh prison in London.

Written by Rishika Singh | New Delhi |
Updated: June 18, 2022 8:10:59 am
Assange’s wife Stella, as well as Wikileaks, has said she would appeal the decision to extradite him. (File)

On Friday, UK Home Secretary Priti Patel approved the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States, where he faces criminal charges. The extradition had been ordered in April by a London court, but it was pending as it needed Patel to sign it.

What happens to Assange now?

Assange still has the right to appeal to the English High Court. If refused, Assange must be extradited within 28 days. He is currently being held at Belmarsh prison in London.

Assange’s wife Stella, as well as Wikileaks, has said she would appeal the decision to extradite him.

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Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has previously supported the demand for Assange’s release, the BBC reported. Assange is an Australian national.

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The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Assange’s Australian human rights lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, said that the Australian government needed to ask the Biden administration to drop the charges. Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong, however, issued a statement saying the Australian government was not a party to the Assange case, nor was it able to intervene in the legal matters of another country, the newspaper added.

Why is Assange wanted in the US?

Assange shot into global prominence in the late 2000s when Wikileaks, which he founded in 2006, began publishing classified and confidential government and corporate documents for public consumption. Some of the most notable of the “leaks” were documents from the US government that said the US military had killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents during the war in Afghanistan.

The US government wants him in connection with 18 charges for violating the Espionage Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. It alleges the information was obtained by Wikileaks illegally and endangered the lives of its officials.

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The Government of Sweden too declared Assange wanted in relation to a sexual assault case against him, which was dropped after the time limit or statute of limitations expired in 2019.

How has he escaped extradition so far?

Assange’s troubles began in 2010, when Sweden asked for his extradition over the charges of sexual assault levelled by two Swedish women. He denied the charges and claimed they were made in a bid to eventually extradite him to the US for trial.

The Swedish Prosecution Authority said: “Every extradition case is to be judged on its own individual merits. For that reason the Swedish government cannot provide a guarantee in advance that Julian Assange would not be subject to further extradition to the USA.”

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Assange sought asylum in 2012 in the Ecuadorian embassy. The same year, when the British Supreme Court rejected Assange’s appeal against extradition to Sweden, he violated his bail conditions to get to the Ecuadorian embassy and was granted refuge.

But in 2019, the Australian national was removed from the embassy and arrested by UK authorities, after Ecuador withdrew protections for Assange for his alleged attempts at “destabilising” Ecuador’s government and flouting the conditions of his stay.

Since then, Assange has been in jail while the extradition hearings have continued. His lawyers have also argued for him to be released given his deteriorating physical and mental health. A district judge ruled in January 2021 that there was a possibility of him dying by suicide in a US prison if extradited. He was still not allowed to leave the UK.

In December last year, the London High Court ruled in favour of the US government after the Joe Biden administration assured it would not hold him at the highest security prison facility. And, if convicted, he could serve his sentence in Australia if requested.

Assange tried appealing against this in the British Supreme Court, but on March 14 the court refused his permission to appeal. Finally, a London court ordered the extradition in April, which has now been signed.

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First published on: 18-06-2022 at 03:04:27 am
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