Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Julian Assange in his final battle to prevent US extradition

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange begins his final legal battle to stop his extradition from Britain to the United States on February 20.

After fighting the authorities for more than 13 years in the English courts, he enters a crucial moment with this bout, which is considered to be his last chance in the case.

Meanwhile, the U.S. prosecutors are trying to put Assange (52) on trial on 18 allegations over WikiLeaks’ high-profile release of records related to military operations and diplomatic correspondence.

Assange is hailed as an anti-establishment hero and a revolutionary journalist by the supporters since he has exposed the war crimes of the US in Afghanistan, Iraq and other places.

In 2010, WikiLeaks gained popularity by publishing U.S. military video showing a 2007 attack by Apache helicopters in Baghdad that killed a dozen people, including journalists.

The legal fight in the case began in 2010, and Assange had to hide for seven years in Ecuador’s embassy.

Later in 2019, he was forcibly removed from there and arrested for allegedly violating bail conditions. Since then, he has been held in a high-security prison in southeast London.Initially, his extradition to the US was blocked by a judge arguing he would be at risk of suicide or a severe mental health if deported.

But Britain allowed it in 2022 overruling the previous judgement.

His lawyers have been trying to challenge Britain’s approval at a two-day hearing in front of two judges at London’s High Court.

They claimed that it is the first time the US Espionage Act is invoked against a publisher.

The US also pursues Snowden under the same 1917 Espionage Act, but because he is currently a Russian citizen and living in Russia he is effectively protected from US prosecution.

They alleged that Assange’s prosecution is politically motivated and leaves an impermissible attack on free speech.

Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders, and all media organisations which worked with WikiLeaks have declared their solidarity with Assange in his fight.

Notably, Australian politicians, including Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, voted in favour of a motion calling for his return to Australia.

“His health is in decline, physically and mentally. His life is at risk every single day he stays in prison,” Stella Assange, the jailed journalist’s wife, told the media last week.

She said they would submit a plea at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for an emergency injunction, since it is a “matter of life and death”.

I know exactly what it feels like to have a loved one unjustly incarcerated with no hope,” Assange’s brother Gabriel Shipton said, comparing the WikiLeaks founder with Alexei Navalny, the Russian Opposition activist who died in prison on Friday.

“To have them pass away, that’s what we live in fear of: that Julian will be lost to us, lost to the US prison system or even die in jail in the UK,” he told BBC.

If Assange gains approval in the case which is considered to be the most important press freedom case in the world’, the appeal hearing will begin anew to consider his challenge.

Otherwise, moving to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) would be his final resort, where he has an appeal already pending.

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