Europe & UK

June 13, 2019

Wikileaks Founder Assange Faces Extradition Hearings After UK Home Secretary Signs Order To Extradite Him To The US

[ By Bobby Anthony ]


United Kingdom Home Secretary Sajid Javid has signed an order to extradite Wikileaks co-founder and publisher Julian Assange to the United States where he faces charges of computer hacking and espionage, after a formal extradition request by the US government.

Consequently, Assange faces his first extradition court hearing before the Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London, on Friday, June 14.

Earlier, Assange, who faces an 18-count indictment by the US Justice Department under the US Espionage Act, was too ill to appear before the Westminster Magistrates’ Court at a scheduled hearing in May.

On May 9, United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer had medically examined the Wikileaks publisher at the high security Belmarsh Prison in London, where is being held.

After the medical examination, Melzer had stated that Assange displayed “extreme stress, chronic anxiety and intense psychological trauma” due to being subjected to several years' worth of “progressively severe forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment”.

Incidentally, the US-UK extradition treaty involves a relatively simpler legal process since the requesting state does not require establishment of any elaborate prima facie case against the accused before the UK courts.

Yet, the case is likely to go on for months since there are multiple opportunities for appeal.

The US government has claimed that Assange violated the US Espionage Act by releasing a vast trove of classified military and diplomatic cables in 2010 about US bombing campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, in concert with former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.

Revelations about huge civilian war casualties and embarrassing statements made by US officials about foreign leaders were published in co-ordination with newspapers like The New York Times and The Guardian, which received these cables from Wikileaks.

Top US officials have accused Assange’s Wikileaks of behaving like a “hostile intelligence service”.

“WikiLeaks walks like a hostile intelligence service and talks like a hostile intelligence service,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said two days after Assange's arrest.

“It is time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is—a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia, Pompeo had said.

If convicted on all 18 charges, Assange could be sentenced to 175 years in jail.

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