The long battle against the extradition of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is approaching its culmination, with a Westminster Magistrates Court sending the case request to the U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel after his extradition was approved.
Patel will now determine whether the United States’ long-standing request to extradite Assange meets various legal requirements, including the promise that he will not face execution. If his extradition is fully approved, Assange will likely appeal to the British High Court.
Assange’s attorney, Mark Summers QC, informed Chief Magistrate Paul Goldspring that “serious submissions” on U.S. sentencing law would be sent to Patel, and that the Home Secretary has “no option but to send this case to the Secretary of State.”
“It is not for me to raise fresh evidence [at this stage] even though there have been serious developments in this case,” he added.
“I am duty-bound to send your case to the Secretary of State for a decision on whether you will be extradited,” the judge told Assange, who spoke briefly via video link from Belmarsh Prison during the hearing. “You have the right to appeal to the High Court and if you exercise your right to appeal it will not be heard until [Patel] has made her decision.”
“He has done no more than tell the world about military planning, military policies and the horrors of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and I think he deserves to be thanked,” controversial British politician, Jeremy Corbyn, told reporters outside the Westminster magistrates court.
Assange has been incarcerated in the United Kingdom since being removed from Ecuador’s embassy in London in 2019. That same year, the U.S. Department of Justice filed multiple charges against Assange related to an alleged violation of the Espionage Act following the release of classified documents by Wikileaks.
The U.S.-based charges were summarized as follows:
- His complicity in illegal acts to obtain or receive voluminous databases of classified information;
- His agreement and attempt to obtain classified information through computer hacking; and
- His publishing certain classified documents that contained the unredacted names of innocent people who risked their safety and freedom to provide information to the United States and its allies, including local Afghans and Iraqis, journalists, religious leaders, human rights advocates, and political dissidents from repressive regimes.”
It was first ruled in December 2021 that Assange could be extradited to the United States.
Meanwhile, numerous British politicians have called for President Joe Biden to drop the charges facing Assange. In a letter last summer, 24 Members of Parliament wrote, “We appeal to you to drop this prosecution, an act that would be a clarion call for freedom that would echo around the globe.”