Julian Assange staves off extradition to US for now

Julian Assange staves off extradition to US for now
Julian Assange staves off extradition to US for now

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - LONDON — WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has fended off the threat of immediate extradition to the United States after the High Court in London said the US needed to provide more assurances.

US authorities say Assange, 52, put lives at risk by publishing secret military documents and have for years been seeking his extradition on espionage charges.

At a two-day hearing last month, Assange sought permission to review the UK’s 2022 approval of his extradition to the US, arguing the case against him was politically motivated and that he would not face a fair trial.

In a ruling Tuesday, a panel of two judges said Assange, an Australian citizen, would not be extradited immediately and gave the US three weeks to give a series of assurances around Assange’s First Amendment rights and that he would not receive the death penalty.

If the US fails to give these assurances, Assange would be allowed to appeal his extradition at a further hearing in May.

The ruling potentially offers Assange an extraordinary lifeline in a years-long saga that saw him shoot to global prominence for revealing what he described previously to CNN as “compelling evidence of war crimes” committed by US-led coalition and Iraqi government forces.

Assange has fought extradition for the last five years from London’s Belmarsh prison and for seven years before that was holed up as a political refugee at the Ecuadorian embassy in the UK capital.

His case has sparked condemnation from free speech advocates who say if the extradition is allowed to go ahead it will have a chilling effect on press freedoms.

The court said on Tuesday that Assange had a “real prospect of success” on three of the nine grounds of appeal: that his extradition is incompatible with freedom of expression; that, if extradited, Assange might be prejudiced at trial due to his nationality; and that, if extradited, he would not enjoy adequate death penalty protection.

But the court refused to grant him leave to appeal on the ground that the prosecution is politically motivated.

“The judge found, on the evidence, that Mr Assange had not shown that the request was made for the purpose of prosecuting him on account of his political opinions,” it said.

It said the judge had taken account of the evidence that the CIA had planned to kidnap Assange from the Ecuadorian Embassy, but the judge “concluded that this was not related to the extradition proceedings.” — CNN

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