/ 27 March 2024

Assange stays put for now

Image source: Getty
Image source: Getty

The Squiz

Julian Assange is edging closer to learning if he will be extradited from the UK to the US to face hacking and espionage charges that could see him locked up for the rest of his life. Last night, the UK’s High Court gave the American government 3 weeks to provide assurances about Assange’s First Amendment rights (that’s the one that protects freedom of speech and freedom of the press) and that he would not face the death penalty. Those are the points the court says Assange has a “real prospect of success” with getting his request to appeal the UK Government’s decision to extradite him over the line. However, the judges disagreed with Assange over his argument that the US is persecuting him for his political opinions. 

Remind me what this is about…

As the founder of WikiLeaks, Assange is wanted for the publishing of sensitive US Government documents – heaps of ’em… In 2010, Wikileaks published a video from a US military helicopter showing the killing of 18 civilians in Iraq, including 2 staff members of the media outlet Reuters. It also published classified US military documents on the Afghan and Iraq wars – things like the details of Afghan civilian casualties, efforts to pursue Osama bin Laden and much more. That was followed by more than 250,000 secret US State Department diplomatic cables that went into the inner workings of important negotiations and their candid assessments of world leaders. His team say he’s a journalist who did what journalists do and made public uncomfortable facts. But the US maintains he’s a spy who endangered the lives of thousands. 

So what’s next?

If the US Government doesn’t provide the assurances the court is looking for, he will be allowed to appeal his extradition. But if the US responds, there will be a hearing in May to decide if the assurances are satisfactory before a final decision on the appeal is made. And while it’s dragging out (again…), this is last-ditch stuff for Assange. His wife Stella spoke outside the court and called the decision “astounding”. She’s urged the US Government to not issue the assurances. “They should drop this shameful case that should never have been brought,” she said overnight. 

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