US wins appeal over extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

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The ruling brings Assange one step closer to being extradited but further hurdles remain.

The United States won an appeal in London’s High Court to have Wikileaks founder Julian Assange extradited to face criminal charges, including breaking a spying law and conspiring to hack government computers. “The court allows the appeal,” Judge Timothy Holroyde said.

The judge said he was satisfied with a package of assurances given by the United States about the conditions of Assange’s detention including a pledge not to hold him in a so-called “ADX” maximum security prison in Colorado and that he would be transferred to Australia to serve his sentence if convicted.

The ruling brings Assange one step closer to being extradited but further hurdles remain.

The fiancée of Julian Assange, Stella Moris, said their legal team would appeal “at the earliest possible moment” a court ruling to allow the United States to extradite the WikiLeaks founder. “We will appeal this decision at the earliest possible moment,” she said in a statement.

Judge Holroyde said the case must now be remitted to Westminster Magistrates’ Court with the direction judges send it to the British government to decide whether or not Assange should be extradited to the United States.

US authorities accuse Australian-born Assange, 50, of 18 counts relating to Wikileaks’ release of vast troves of confidential US military records and diplomatic cables which they said had put lives in danger.

The United States was appealing against a Jan.4 ruling by a London District Judge that Assange should not be extradited because he would likely commit suicide in a US prison.

A two-day hearing was held in October where US lawyers argued that the original judge had not given sufficient weight to other expert testimony about his mental state. They also sought to assure the court that he would not be held in punishing isolation at a federal supermax prison, and would receive appropriate treatment.

‘Solemn undertakings’

Two appeal judges at the High Court in London accepted US assurances that Assange would not face the strictest measures before any trial or after conviction.
Such assurances were “solemn undertakings offered by one government to another”, judge Timothy Holroyde told the court.

He said Assange would “receive appropriate clinical and psychological treatment” in the United States and Washington would agree to transfer him to Australia if he is convicted.

“The court rejected various criticisms of those assurances which were argued on Mr Assange’s behalf and was satisfied that the assurances were sufficient to meet the concerns which led to the district judge’s decision,” he said.

The judges ordered that the case be returned to Westminster Magistrates Court in central London with a direction it be sent to Home Secretary Priti Patel for a final decision on whether Assange should be extradited.

Assange’s partner, Stella Moris, said they would “appeal this decision at the earliest possible moment”, calling it 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,” she said, referring to claims about a CIA plan under the Trump administration.

‘Cannibalistic worldview’

The long-running case has become a cause celebre for free speech, with Assange’s supporters arguing WikiLeaks has the same rights as other media to publish secret material in the public interest.

Speaking outside court, Moris said the case was a “vindictive prosecution against a journalist” for what he published. “This goes to the fundamentals of press freedom and democracy,” she said, accusing Britain of acting on behalf of a foreign power.

Russia, suspected of hacking 2016 US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign and handing materials to WikiLeaks, called the ruling “shameful.”
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called it “a political case against a journalist and public figure — another manifestation of the cannibalistic worldview of the Anglo-Saxon alliance.”

Amnesty International also questioned US assurances about how Assange would be treated if extradited to face trial, calling them “inherently unreliable.”

Pro-Assange supporters gathered outside the court, waving placards and demanding his immediate release. WikiLeaks said he was not given permission to attend Friday’s hearing in person.

 Agencies 

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