A London court on Wednesday ordered the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in the US, the latest but not the last leg of a long battle in UK courtrooms. The order to extradite Assange, who is wanted by the US on charges under the Espionage Act, is to be signed by UK Home Secretary Priti Patel. Assange has four weeks to appeal directly to her, and he also has the right to take his case to the English High Court after she issues her decision.
We return to the case against the founder of WikiLeaks and why the trial lasted so long.
Why is Assange wanted in the United States?
On April 5, 2010, a 39-minute video was released by a website called wikileaks.org that showed visual footage of two American AH-64 Apache helicopters in action during the Iraqi insurgency against American occupation in 2007 The video showed the helicopter crew shooting indiscriminately and killing civilians and two Reuters war correspondents. For nearly three years, Reuters had sought to access this video which would have shed light on the murder of its correspondents, via the American Freedom of Information Act but had failed.
Assange has been wanted by the United States since 2010, when WikiLeaks released nearly 400,000 documents called Iraq War Logs from US Department of Defense databases by intelligence analyst Bradley Manning (who is no longer later called Chelsea), which acted as a whistle. -fan. Manning had copied these files to a CD-ROM and uploaded them to a WikiLeaks drop box.
WikiLeaks quickly released the war diaries that were published by a host of media organizations and revealed human rights abuses by the occupying forces in addition to the growing death toll in Iraq. Later, WikiLeaks also released the emails of presidential candidate and former aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, John Podesta, before the 2016 presidential elections. While the WikiLeaks portal was maintained and supported by hundreds of volunteers, the site was publicly represented by its founder and director Julian Assange. In December 2018, the website also released a searchable database of more than 16,000 procurement requests made by US embassies around the world.
The WikiLeaks model – using cryptographic tools to protect sources and allowing the publication of anonymous “leaks” of sensitive information (which could also be in the public interest) – suddenly gave rise to a new model of in-depth investigative journalism in areas that were relatively kept under control. the obscurity of the public eye.
What were the charges against him?
The Barack Obama administration opened an investigation into Manning’s leaks, and Manning was convicted by court-martial in July 2013 of violating the Espionage Act and given a rigorous prison sentence before his sentence would not be commuted in January 2017. However, the administration had decided that it would not pursue criminal charges against Assange and WikiLeaks.
Things changed under former President Donald Trump when he accused Assange of collaborating in a plot with Manning to crack the password to a Department of Defense network to post classified documents and communications on WikiLeaks. in a sealed indictment in April 2017. Those charges came to light in 2019.
Later, the Trump administration further charged Assange with violating the Espionage Act of 1917 and he was charged with 17 new law-related charges in the United States District Court for the Eastern District. of Virginia. These charges carry a maximum sentence of 170 years in prison.
The trial in the UK
Assange fought a long legal battle against his extradition after his arrest in London in 2019, after spending seven years locked inside the Ecuadorian embassy in an attempt to avoid detention. After then Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno revoked his asylum and citizenship on April 11, 2019, following Assange’s disputes with Ecuadorian authorities, he was imprisoned for 50 weeks for violating his freedom on bail while in refuge at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
A district judge, Vanessa Baraitser, ruled in January 2021 that he could not be extradited to the United States due to concerns about his mental health and the possibility of suicide in a US prison with strict incarceration conditions. . However, Assange was denied bail as he was assessed as a flight risk and US prosecutors were allowed to appeal which they filed on January 15, 2021.
On December 10, 2021, the High Court ruled in favor of the United States following assurances from the Joe Biden administration on the terms of Assange’s eventual incarceration – that it would not hold him in custody. secure prison facility and that if convicted he could serve his sentence in his native Australia if he so requests.
Assange appealed the verdict to the UK Supreme Court, but on March 14 the court refused leave to appeal. Finally, a London court this week ordered the extradition.
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