WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can appeal against extradition to US, rules UK court | World News - Hindustan Times
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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can appeal against extradition to US, rules UK court

May 20, 2024 05:54 PM IST

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange won a bid to appeal against a UK court ruling approving his extradition to the US to face trial on espionage charges.

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, can appeal against an order for his extradition to the United States, a London court ruled on Monday.

Julian Assange faces 17 espionage charges and one charge of computer misuse over his website’s publication of a trove of classified U.S. documents almost 15 years ago. (AP Photo/ File)
Julian Assange faces 17 espionage charges and one charge of computer misuse over his website’s publication of a trove of classified U.S. documents almost 15 years ago. (AP Photo/ File)

Assange, 52, has been held in London's Belmarsh Prison since April 2019, following his arrest at the Ecuadorian Embassy where he had sought asylum for nearly seven years. The US government has charged him with 18 counts, including espionage and hacking government computers, stemming from WikiLeaks' 2010 release of thousands of classified documents.

Assange's lawyers argued that the U.S. provided “blatantly inadequate” assurances the whistleblower would have free press protections if extradited to America to face espionage charges.

Read: US considering Australia's request to drop prosecution of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, says President Joe Biden

Lawyer Edward Fitzgerald said prosecutors had failed to guarantee that Assange, an Australian citizen who claims protections as a journalist for publishing U.S. classified information, could rely on press protections of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, reported Associated Press.

“The real issue is whether an adequate assurance has been provided to remove the real risk identified by the court,” Fitzgerald said. “It is submitted that no adequate assurance has been made.”

Assange’s lawyers have argued he was a journalist who exposed U.S. military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sending him to the U.S., they said, would expose him to a politically motivated prosecution and risk a “flagrant denial of justice.”

Julian Assange founded WikiLeaks in 2006, a platform for whistleblowers to anonymously leak sensitive documents. The website gained international notoriety in 2010 when it published a trove of classified US military and diplomatic documents provided by former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.

The US government asserts that Assange's actions went beyond traditional journalism and directly harmed national security. They argue that publishing unredacted documents with names of informants and other sensitive details jeopardized lives and national interests.

However, Assange's supporters argue that he acted as a journalist, publishing information of public interest. They claim that prosecuting Assange under the Espionage Act sets a dangerous precedent for press freedom, potentially criminalising investigative journalism that exposes government misconduct.

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