Extradition to the US of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was approved on 17 June by Home Secretary Priti Patel. He has been given 14 days to appeal the decision which expires on 1 July.
Mr Assange is wanted by the US authorities over documents leaked in 2010 and 2011, many of which related to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The US claims that he broke the law and endangered lives. Mr Assange has always claimed that the information exposed abuses by the US military and that the case against him is politically motivated.The sensational revelations received consider media attention at the time especially in the US and Europe.
Responding to the home secretary’s order, Wikileaks confirmed it would appeal her decision. Mr Assange’s wife, Stella, said her husband had done “nothing wrong” and “he has committed no crime”. “He is a journalist and a publisher, and he is being punished for doing his job,” she said. (You can see her press conference given shortly after the deportation announcement was made at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6Lcoi3Mr3Q&feature=youtu.be
The National Union of Journalists has expressed grave concern at the decision https://www.nuj.org.uk/resource/the-nuj-has-expressed-its-gravest-concern-at-home-secretary-priti-patel-s-decision-to-extradite-julian-assange.html.
Michelle Stanistreet General Secretary said:
“Any journalists who is handed a classified US document, or is contacted by a whistleblower to expose criminality and wrongdoing will not fear that they too will be extradited and put at risk of spending the rest of their lives in prison.
“Whatever one’s opinion of Julian Assange, he is being pursued for action that are part of the daily work of any investigative journalist. Priti Patel had the opportunity to show humanity and a respect for free expression. I regret that she has chosen not to. There are some legal avenues available to Assange that might yet prevent his extradition. I can only hope that they are successful”.
Former government minister David Davis said he did not believe Mr Assange would have a fair trial in the US. “This extradition treaty needs to be rewritten to give British and American citizens identical rights, unlike now,” he said.
Meanwhile, dozens of civil liberties and media freedom organisations have stated that the case represents a “grave threat” to press freedom and the public’s right to know as well as 2,000 journalists worldwide. If Assange is extradited it will mean that the US government can apply its domestic criminal laws to prosecute any citizen, anywhere in the world, for publishing its secrets.