British Home Secretary Priti Patel approved Friday the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States to face US justice. Thus begins the last round of appeals before the British courts, with which Assange’s lawyers will try to prevent him from being handed over. US authorities accuse the former hacker Australian of 18 crimes, including one of espionage, related to the publication by WikiLeaks of confidential information, military records and diplomatic cables that, according to Washington, have put lives in danger.
Assange’s supporters have argued that he is an anti-system hero who has been victimized because he exposed the irregularities committed by the US in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that his prosecution is an attack on journalism and freedom of expression.
“On June 17, following consideration by both the Magistrates’ Court and the High Court, Julian Assange was ordered extradited to the US. Assange retains the normal 14-day right of appeal,” the Home Office said in a statement. release.
“In this case, the UK courts have not found that the extradition of Mr. Assange was oppressive, unfair or a procedural abuse,” Patel’s department has justified. “Nor have they determined that his extradition is incompatible with his human rights, including the right to a fair trial and freedom of expression. Similarly, they have concluded that, during his stay in the United States, he will be treated appropriately, including in regard to his health, ”concludes the public statement.
Patel’s decision does not mean the end of the Australian’s legal battle after more than a decade of litigation. His legal team can lodge an appeal with the High Court in London, which must give their approval. Ultimately, he may try to take his case to the UK High Court. But if an appeal is rejected, Assange must be extradited within 28 days.
Assange was sentenced to almost a year in prison by the British justice for breaking the restrictions on his provisional release in 2012. The Swedish authorities had demanded the delivery of the fugitive, accused of several crimes of rape and sexual abuse against two women who collaborated in a Wikileaks event in Stockholm two years earlier. The hacker obtained the diplomatic protection of the Government of Ecuador, then chaired by Rafael Correa, and remained locked up for seven years in the premises of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.
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The Government of Ecuador, then chaired by Lenín Moreno, decided to break ties with the fugitive from justice and handed him over to the British authorities in April 2019. They accused him of having abused his hospitality and carried out illegal activities and interference in the internal affairs of other countries since his confinement. Assange had become an unwelcome guest who, among other things, provoked a protest from the Spanish government for his online campaign in favor of the independence movement in Catalonia, in the days before and after the illegal referendum on October 1, 2017.
The Swedish government decided to reactivate the accusations against Assange, which had been provisionally dismissed, after learning of his surrender to London. However, a court in that country ruled that it was not necessary to arrest her and thus stopped some extradition proceedings that were about to be completed. In this way, the request of the US Executive acquired prevalence. The Swedish justice finally decided to file the case last November.
Assange knew how to outwit his Ecuadorian hosts and the British and American intelligence services and was a father on two occasions from his situation of confinement. Stella Morris, 37, a lawyer of South African origin, but with Swedish nationality, revealed to the British newspaper Mail on Sunday that she had been hiding her affair with Assange from the world for five years, with whom she has had two children, Gabriel, two years old, and Max, one. “In the last five years I have found that love makes the most unbearable circumstances bearable, but now it is different,” Morris said. “Now I am afraid that I will never see him alive again. His health is very poor, and that puts him at serious risk. I don’t think he could survive a coronavirus infection.”