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Britain approved Julian Assange’s extradition to the United States

Newsman: The British government approved Julian Assange‘s extradition to the United States toward the WikiLeaks founder facing trial on espionage charges. Wiki Leaks, his Orga nization said marked a “dark day for press freedom.” Assange is currently in the high-security Belmarsh Prison in London, where he has been held since being dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London three years ago.

“Allowing Julian Assange to be extradited to the US would put him at great risk and sends a chilling message to journalists the world over,” Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International secretary general, said in a statement Friday.

Tim Dawson, executive member of the National Union of Journalists in the UK, who spoke alongside Assange’s wife on Friday, said that the alleged offenses for which the Wikileaks founder was being pursued were “the daily business of almost any investigative journalist.”

Assange’s family vowed to keep fighting for him.His wife, Stella Moris, said at  press conference on Friday, that the UK “should not be engaging in persecution on behalf of a foreign power that is out for revenge… that foreign power committed crimes which Julian put into the sunlight.”

 “Today is not the end of the fight. It is only the beginning of a new legal battle,” his wife Stella Assange said in a statement.

The British government’s decision marked “a dark day for press freedom and for British democracy,” she added.

“Julian did nothing wrong,” she said. “He has committed no crime and is not a criminal. He is a journalist and a publisher, and he is being punished for doing his job.”

The Home Office said in a statement that the extradition order for Assange had been signed by Priti Patel, the U.K.’s home secretary“On 17 June, following consideration by both the Magistrates Court and High Court, the extradition of Mr Julian Assange to the US was ordered. Mr Assange retains the normal 14-day right to appeal,” a U.K. Home Office spokesperson said.

 Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson told a news conference he would do so.

In a statement, Wikileaks asserted that Assange “committed no crime and is not a criminal,” adding that he is a “journalist and a publisher” who “is being punished for doing his job.”

“This is a dark day for Press freedom and British democracy. Anyone who cares about freedom of expression should be deeply ashamed,” Wikileaks added.

The WikiLeaks founder has been waging a yearslong legal battle to avoid being sent to the U.S. to face trial on 18 charges, including breaking espionage laws. He has spent the past three years in London’s Belmarsh prison waiting to find out whether he will be extradited.

“In this case, the U.K. courts have not found that it would be oppressive, unjust or an abuse of process to extradite Mr. Assange,” a Home Office spokesperson said. “Nor have they found that extradition would be incompatible with his human rights.”

A decision on whether to extradite Assange had been anticipated from Patel after a British court ruling in April that he could be sent to the U.S.

JUNE 17, 202202:36

Assange is wanted by U.S. authorities in relation to WikiLeaks’ release of vast troves of confidential U.S. military records and diplomatic cables, which Washington said had put lives in danger.

He has denied any wrongdoing.

If convicted, Assange, 50, could face a sentence of up to 175 years in prison.

Supporters and lawyers for him argue that he was acting as a journalist and that he cannot get a fair trial in the U.S

On Friday, Australia’s Foreign Office issued a statement noting the UK decision to extradite Assange, who is an Australian citizen, adding: “We will continue to convey our expectations that Mr Assange is entitled to due process, humane and fair treatment, access to proper medical care, and access to his legal team.”

According to the statement, the Australian government maintains that the Wikileaks founder’s case “has dragged on for too long and that it should be brought to a close.”

“We will continue to express this view to the governments of the United Kingdom and United States,” it said.

Assange’s appeal would include new information not previously taken to the courts, including claims made in a report last year of plans to assassinate him, his brother Chris Shipton told Reuters.

He said it would include “information on how Julian lawyers were spied on and how there were plots to kidnap and kill Julian from within the CIA.”

He was referring to a Yahoo News report from September 2021 on alleged U.S. plans to kidnap or assassinate Assange when he was holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

He spent seven years living there to avoid extradition to Sweden over allegations of rape and sexual assault. Sweden dropped those investigations in November 2019.

The CIA has declined to comment on the Yahoo report.

Amnesty International Secretary General Agnes Callamard said Friday that extraditing Assange “would put him at great risk and sends a chilling message to journalists the world over.”

His family and his legal team have repeatedly warned of his deteriorating mental health, which they have said will be put at greater risk if he is extradited to the U.S.

Assange and WikiLeaks came under the international spotlight after releasing footage from a 2007 airstrike in Baghdad that had resulted in the deaths of two Reuters journalists and others.

Released under the title “Collateral Murder,” the video sparked widespread upset among Americans about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

WikiLeaks then gained further attention in 2010 after publishing the classified defense documents on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as well as on detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

The Obama administration did not immediately indict Assange. Instead, he was charged with violating the Espionage Act under former President Donald Trump.

Chelsea Manning, a former Army member who had shared the intel with WikiLeaks, spent years behind bars after refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating Assange. She was released while the Obama administration was still in office.

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