Dec 10, 2021 - World

U.S. wins appeal to extradite Julian Assange

Photo: Guy Smallman/Getty Images

England's High Court on Friday overturned a British judge's decision to block the extradition of Julian Assange to the U.S., dealing a major blow to the WikiLeaks founder in his decade-long fight to avoid prosecution by the U.S. government.

Why it matters: Assange, who was arrested in Ecuador's embassy in London in 2019 after its government revoked his asylum, is wanted in the U.S. on charges of violating the Espionage Act and hacking government computers.

  • The case has raised significant questions about First Amendment protections for publishers of classified information, as Assange argues he was acting as a journalist when he published leaked U.S. government documents on Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • The case is also politically charged: WikiLeaks was accused in 2016 of releasing Democratic emails hacked by Russian intelligence in order to damage Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. The charges he faces are not related to the 2016 election.

What to watch: Assange will likely appeal the ruling further.

Driving the news: A U.K. judge blocked Assange's extradition in January over concerns about his mental condition. The High Court said Friday that it had received appropriate assurances from the U.S. to meet the threshold for extradition, including:

  • Assange will not be subject to “special administrative measures” or be held in a notorious maximum security prison in Florence, Colorado.
  • Assange, if convicted, will be permitted to serve out his sentence in his native Australia.
  • Assange will receive appropriate clinical and psychological treatment in custody.

The big picture: Assange faces a sentence of up to 175 years in prison if found guilty of all charges in the 18-count indictment.

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