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U.S. wins appeal to extradite Wikileaks founder Julian Assange from the UK

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WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange leaves Westminster Magistrates Court in London, Britain.

Henry Nicholls | Reuters

Julian Assange, the 50-year-old founder of Wikileaks, is a step closer to being extradited from Britain to the United States after the U.S. government won an appeal in London’s High Court.

Judge Timothy Holroyde said Friday that the court “allows the appeal.”

In the U.S., the Australian entrepreneur will face criminal charges including breaking a spying law and conspiring to hack government computers.

Holyrode said the U.S. has assured Britain that Assange’s detention will meet certain conditions.

Assange, who was not permitted to attend the hearing in person, is wanted by U.S. authorities over the publication of hundreds of thousands of classified military documents and diplomatic cables in 2010 and 2011.

They say his actions put lives in danger and they accuse him of 18 counts, meaning he faces a 175-year prison sentence.

Stella Moris, Julian Assange’s fiancee, said Friday: “We will appeal this decision at the earliest possible moment.”

She described the High Court’s ruling as “dangerous and misguided” and a “grave miscarriage of justice.”

“How can it be fair, how can it be right, how can it be possible, to extradite Julian to the very country which plotted to kill him?” Morris added.

Human rights group Amnesty International said the charges against Assange are “politically motivated” and should be dropped.

It added that the “assurances” that the U.S. has offered “leave Mr. Assange at risk of ill-treatment,” are “inherently unreliable,” and “should be rejected.”

The assurances are “discredited by their admission that they reserved the right to reverse those guarantees,” the group said.

Editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, Kristinn Hrafnsson, said in a statement: “Julian’s life is once more under grave threat, and so is the right of journalists to publish material that governments and corporations find inconvenient.

He added: “This is about the right of a free press to publish without being threatened by a bullying superpower.”

The U.S. appeal comes after a London District Judge ruled on Jan 4. that Assange should not be extradited because he would likely commit suicide in a U.S. prison.

Judge Vanessa Baraitser said in January that extradition would be oppressive due to Assange’s mental health.

The activist founded WikiLeaks in 2006 to publish news leaks and classified information provided by anonymous sources.

Over the years, Assange has won a smattering of journalism awards including The Economist’s New Media Award in 2008 and the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism in 2011. Throughout the trial, Assange has maintained that he is little more than a journalist and a publisher.

Assange has spent most of the last decade in confinement. It started in 2012 when he holed himself up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London after he lost a U.K. Supreme Court appeal of his extradition to Sweden, where authorities wanted to question him about rape allegations.

While the Swedish case was subsequently dropped, Assange was evicted from the embassy in April 2019 and arrested for skipping bail in the U.K. He was sentenced to 50 weeks in prison and is still being detained.

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