Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks co-founder, is one step closer to being extradited to the United States, where he is set to be tried mainly under the Espionage Act, after a London court agreed an extradition order. The court issued a formal extradition order at a hearing on Wednesday (20 April), leaving home secretary Priti Patel to decide whether to approve the extradition. Assange appeared by videolink during the Westminster magistrates court hearing. He has the right to appeal the decision.
As well as being able to make submissions to the home secretary, Assange’s lawyers can also use other legal options to fight his extradition. This could include challenging other issues of law raised earlier on which the defence lost and have not yet been subject to appeal. Some observers think the process could easily take up to a year: https://www.nuj.org.uk/resource/assange-s-fate-in-priti-patel-s-hands.html.
The seven minute hearing took place after the supreme court last month refused Assange’s appeal against his extradition.
Assange is wanted in the US over the publication of a series of leaks about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. His lawyers say he could face up to 175 years in jail if he is convicted although the US authorities claim it would be much less than that.
Speaking to supporters after the hearing Stella Moris, who last month married Julian in Belmarsh prison where he has been held for over three years said: “If Julian is extradited, the UK will be in breach of its own treaty with the United States. This is clearly a political case. Priti Patel should free Julian at once.”
Former Labour leader Jeremy Corby told protestors outside the court that: “Julian has done no more than tell the world about military planning, military policies and the horrors of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and I think he deserves to be thanked…There was still a chance for the government to do the right thing, bring the case to a close and release Julian Assange. “I call on them to do that at once”, he concluded.
Commenting on the decision Michelle Stanistreet NUJ general secretary said the government: “Is allowing this extradition to continue when it is clear that the US is trying to prosecute Julian Assange for actions that are commonplace for journalists the world over.”
In a statement the International Federation of Journalists said the extradition of Assange would be a disastrous signal for all whistleblowers.