The London High Court reversed Friday the ruling that prevented U.S. authorities from extraditing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who was charged with committing espionage for leaking classified military documents and diplomatic cables in 2010 and 2011.
A British judge had ruled in January that the U.S. would be prohibited from adjudicating his case because it would be “oppressive” and could cause him to suffer mental health damage.
Judge Vanessa Baraitser determined then that the “special administrative measures” the U.S. would take in keeping Assange captive and compliant would likely inflict serious harm on his mental health.
After appealing on the basis of “four assurances,” in which the U.S. made promises as to Assange’s treatment, the judge ruled in the U.S. favor. The U.S. agreed it would not deploy “special administrative measures and would not incarcerate Assange at a maximum security prison before or after trial. It also said it would “consent” to Assange’s request to be relocated to Australia to carry out his sentence if found guilty of his political offenses. Lastly, the U.S. guaranteed Assange would receive mental health care while in custody.
The judge was persuaded by the U.S. pledges and granted the appeal Friday. Assange will be tried for criminal charges including violating the Espionage Act and conspiring to hack government computers. The Westminster Magistrates’ Court will review the case again and pass it off to UK Home Secretary, who will decide whether Assange should be extradited to the U.S.
U.S. authorities argue that Assange’s actions endangered Americans and have leveled 18 counts against him. The sentence for these crimes, if convicted, would amount to 175 years in prison.
On the Wikileaks twitter, Stella Moris, Julian Assange’s fiancee, rejected the decision and vowed to use the legal team to fight it. “We will appeal this decision at the earliest possible moment,” she said, calling the ruling “dangerous and misguided” and 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?” Morris added.
Assange spent nearly seven years under asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in order to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faced unrelated charges. He was eventually arrested by British authorities in 2019 under bail-skipping charges and an extradition warrant from the U.S.
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