April 13, 2024

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Assange's extradition trial is still awaiting a verdict

Assange's extradition trial is still awaiting a verdict

London (AFP) – On Wednesday, American lawyers denied the existence of political motives behind the request to extradite Julian Assange on espionage charges, in a trial in London that was heard to issue the ruling after studying the WikiLeaks founder’s appeal against his surrender.

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The judges announced they would take time to deliberate, so Assange may have to wait weeks or months to see if his appeal is accepted by UK justice, after the two-day hearing concluded on Wednesday.

On the last day of the session, the American lawyers tried to respond to the defense arguments, which they presented the day before, that the accusations against their client, who has been in a high-security prison near London for nearly five years, had a political basis.

Assange, in his last refuge in the United Kingdom to avoid extradition, is wanted in the United States because since 2010 he has published more than 700,000 secret documents about the North American country's military and diplomatic activities, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Claire Dobbin, a lawyer for the US government, said before the High Court of Justice in London that “the charges are based on the rule of law and the evidence” against Assange.

The founder of WikiLeaks has filed an appeal against the decision of the British government, which agreed to extradite him to the United States in 2022.

If extradited, he could be sentenced to up to 175 years in prison.

The 52-year-old Australian, after feeling unwell the day before, also did not attend the second and final day of the session.

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“It randomly and intentionally published to the world the names of people who served as sources of information for the United States,” Dubin said, adding that this fact set it apart from other media outlets.

He added: “These facts are what distinguish him, not his political views.”

On Tuesday, Assange's defense resorted to freedom of information as the basis for its defense.

US attorneys responded on Wednesday that Assange was “putting people's lives in danger.”

A poster carrying a message supporting the release of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, photographed on February 21, 2024, in front of the High Court of Justice in London, which is examining his appeal against his extradition to the United States. © Danielle Leal/AFP

They said: “By publishing this information on the WikiLeaks website, you created a serious and imminent danger to the human sources mentioned there, who could have been exposed to serious physical harm.”

Decision at a later date

After the hearing, the judges, Victoria Sharp and Jeremy Johnson, will decide, at an unspecified date, whether the United Kingdom extradites the WikiLeaks founder to the United States.

The non-governmental organization Reporters Without Borders confirmed, “We did not hear anything new from the legal representation of the United States government at this session.”

“Instead of addressing the convincing arguments presented by the defense the day before, they stuck to their claims that Assange’s actions were not journalistic activity and that he would receive a fair trial,” RSF added.

If Assange is successful in this trial, he will likely face another hearing in the UK, which should confirm his non-extradition.

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If the London court confirms his extradition, Assange will resort to the European Court of Human Rights as a last resort.

The WikiLeaks founder will have a period of two weeks, according to his lawyer, before the extradition becomes effective, to file this appeal with the European Court of Human Rights.

Fragile health

During the days before the trial, his wife warned of her husband's fragile health.

A protester shows his support for Julian Assange on February 21, 2024 outside the High Court of Justice in London, which is hearing the WikiLeaks founder's appeal against his extradition to the United States.
A protester shows his support for Julian Assange on February 21, 2024 outside the High Court of Justice in London, which is hearing the WikiLeaks founder's appeal against his extradition to the United States. © Adrian Dennis/AFP

Stella Assange said on Thursday, “His health is deteriorating physically and mentally. His life is in danger every day he remains in prison, and if he is extradited, he will die.”

British police arrested the founder of WikiLeaks in 2019, seven years after he was detained in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he sought refuge to avoid being extradited on charges of sexual assault to Sweden, charges that were later dropped.

The appeal in North America, in December 2021, caused the British judicial system to cancel the first decision and open the way for his extradition.

Assange's appeal was unsuccessful, and in April 2022, a British court authorized extradition, which the British government accepted two months later.