Wikileaks founder Julian Assange faces fewer options after the British government on Friday approved his extradition to the United States. The decision is the latest chapter in a long-running legal battle that began when former military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning leaked classified government documents about the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, which Assange published on WikiLeaks in 2010. document.
Friday’s decision, approved by Home Secretary Priti Patel, is the latest in a series of failed legal battles for Assange to stay in the UK. It’s a blow to Assange, who has spent the past decade either hiding in Ecuador’s London embassy or in a British prison. He is increasingly likely to be indicted in U.S. courts, creating a moment of instability for First Amendment rights and the ability of the news media to publish material deemed a threat to national security.
“This is a dark day for press freedom and British democracy,” WikiLeaks said in a statement statement Share on Twitter. “Julian did nothing wrong. He did not commit a crime, nor was he a criminal. He was a journalist and a publisher.” WikiLeaks said Assange intended to appeal.
“Assange may have at least one more avenue of appeal, so he may not have flown to the U.S. yet,” Trevor Thiem, executive director of Press Freedom, said in a statement. “But this is a more troubling state of affairs. development that could upend journalists’ rights in the 21st century.” The charges against Assange include 17 charges under the Espionage Act and one under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
Friday’s ruling overturned a December 2021 decision that declared Assange could not be extradited because putting him in prison in the United States could increase the risk of suicide. The judge has accepted assurances from the United States that Assange will not face solitary confinement and will receive psychological treatment.
A spokesman for the UK Home Office told WIRED: “The UK courts have not found the extradition of Mr Assange to be oppressive, unjust or an abuse of process. “Nor have they found that extradition is inconsistent with his human rights. , including his rights to a fair trial and free speech, and that he will be treated appropriately, including his health, while in the United States.”
According to the Home Office, Assange’s legal team has 14 days to appeal. His next move, now that the defense’s arguments based on Assange’s suicide risk, have been dismissed, he may focus on his team’s other arguments against extradition, such as the threat it poses to press freedom and political bias against Assange. U.S. law enforcement, given that Assange has been a thorn in the side of the U.S. executive branch for over a decade.
“I think there’s a lot of road ahead here,” said Naomi Colvin, UK/Ireland director of advocacy group Blueprint for Free Speech. She pointed out that even if the additional arguments fail to shake the British judicial system, Assange could appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, saying extradition would violate Britain’s commitments to human rights treaties. Colvin added that, in another option, Assange’s team could ask for a judicial review that specifically challenges the political aspects of Patel’s decision.