Follow Us:
Thursday, January 20, 2022

Explained: What happens to Julian Assange if he is extradited to the US?

The London High Court has ruled that Julian Assange can be extradited back to the US. What happens now?

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: December 12, 2021 3:22:12 pm
Julian Assange, who is Australian, founded WikiLeaks in 2006. (File)

The London High Court has ruled that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been wanted by the US for his role in the publication of thousands of classified diplomatic cables and military documents, can be extradited back to the US.

The court was hearing an US appeal against a January 4 ruling by a lower court that did not permit Assange’s extradition saying he would likely attempt suicide in a US prison.

This time, however, the US assured the court that it will reduce the risk of Assange attempting suicide considering a number of doctors have said that he suffers from depression and could try and kill himself in the event that he is extradited.

In the US, Assange will face criminal charges under the Espionage Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The Espionage Act prohibits people from obtaining information relating to the national defence with intent or reason to believe that the information to be obtained is to be used to the injury of the US or to the advantage of any foreign nation.

Amnesty International recently called on US authorities to drop charges against him and not seek his extradition. In 2016, a United Nations panel also spoke in Assange’s favour. After the court’s ruling, Amnesty International posted on their Twitter account, “This is a travesty of justice. By allowing this appeal, the High Court has chosen to accept the deeply flawed diplomatic assurances given by the US that #Assange would not be held in solitary confinement in a maximum security prison.”

Assange’s partner Stella Moris has been raising funds to fight his extradition. “Julian exposed the killing of unarmed civilians and the torture of innocent people. For that the people who are driving this want to bury Julian in the deepest, darkest corner of the US prison system for the rest of his life. Julian faces a potential sentence of 175 years,” the crowdsource page set up by Moris says.

Who is Julian Assange and what did he do?

Assange has been wanted by the US since 2010, when WikiLeaks – that calls itself a “multi-national media organisation and associated library” – published thousands of diplomatic cables and military documents handed to it by the rogue US Army serviceperson Chelsea Manning. The 2010 leaks also included a chilling POV video of a US Apache helicopter in Iraq gunning down 12 people, including two Reuters journalists.

In December 2018, the website published a searchable database of more than 16,000 procurement requests that were made by US embassies around the world.

Assange, who is Australian, founded WikiLeaks in 2006. In a 2015 interview to Spiegel, Assange said, “WikiLeaks is a giant library of the world’s most persecuted documents. We give asylum to these documents, analyze them, promote them and obtain more. WikiLeaks has more than 10 million documents and associated analyses now.”

He also said in the interview that most of the readers of WikiLeaks come from India, followed by the US.

But why is Assange in the UK?

In 2010, Sweden announced that it was investigating Assange in a case of rape and molestation, an accusation brought forth by two women. It went on to issue an extradition warrant against Assange, who was in the UK at the time. Attempting to fight the Swedish warrant, Assange approached a British court in 2011. The ruling did not go in his favour, and he subsequently lost an appeal in the UK Supreme Court in June 2012.

Out on bail, Assange sought refuge at the Embassy of Ecuador in London, the Latin American country which was at the time led by the leftist leader Rafael Correa. Ecuador formally accepted his request for asylum in August 2012. Assange had been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London ever since — until his arrest in 2019.

For jumping bail, the Westminster Magistrates Court in 2012 issued a warrant for his arrest if he left the Ecuadorian embassy. Assange maintained that the charges were false, and only a ploy to have him extradited to the US.

Newsletter | Click to get the day’s best explainers in your inbox

📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines

For all the latest Explained News, download Indian Express App.

  • Newsguard
  • The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.
  • Newsguard
0 Comment(s) *
* The moderation of comments is automated and not cleared manually by