Julian Assange is set to be extradited to the US to face espionage charges.
The WikiLeaks founder’s fate was sealed by Home Secretary Priti Patel today (June 17), after she signed an order that will see Assange face American authorities, ending a battle against extradition that he has staged for over a decade.
After consideration by Westminster Magistrates Court and the High Court, the decision was passed to Patel; Assange now has 14 days to appeal. In a statement, WikiLeaks described the move as marking a “dark day for press freedom and British democracy”. They confirmed their founder’s intention to lodge an appeal.
“Anyone in this country who cares about freedom of expression should be deeply ashamed that the Home Secretary has approved the extradition of Julian Assange to the United States, the country that plotted his assassination,” continued the statement from the whistleblowing organisation. “Julian did nothing wrong. He has committed no crime and is not a criminal. He is a journalist and a publisher, and he is being punished for doing his job.
“It was in Priti Patel’s power to do the right thing,” the statement concluded. “Instead she will forever be remembered as an accomplice of the United States in its agenda to turn investigative journalism into a criminal enterprise.” Assange is currently detained at Belmarsh prison in London, where he has been since April of 2019, when he was arrested for breaching the Bail Act at the city’s Ecuadorian embassy after the South American country withdrew his asylum. He had taken refuge at the embassy since August 2012.
Assange came to international prominence in 2010, when WikiLeaks published a slew of classified information provided by US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, including war logs from both Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2019, the US government charged Assange under the Espionage Act of 2017, a move that drew criticism from leading newspapers, including The New York Times and the Washington Post, who argued that it represented an attack on a free press and violated the First Amendment to the US Constitution, which enshrines free speech as a basic right.
“On 17 June, following consideration by both the Magistrates Court and High Court, the extradition of Mr Julian Assange to the US was ordered,” said a Home Office spokesperson. “Mr Assange retains the normal 14-day right to appeal.”
“In this case, the UK courts have not found that it would be oppressive, unjust or an abuse of process to extradite Mr Assange,” the spokesperson went on. “Nor have they found that extradition would be incompatible with his human rights, including his right to a fair trial and to freedom of expression, and that whilst in the US he will be treated appropriately, including in relation to his health.”