Julian Assange can be extradited to the United States to face espionage charges, a British high court has ruled.
The WikiLeaks co-founder is wanted in the US for publishing classified documents related to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Earlier this year, a court ruled that he could not be extradited on mental health grounds, with a judge stating that there was a real and ‘oppressive’ risk of his suicide.
However, in a judgement announced today, the court overturned that decision after receiving ‘binding’ diplomatic assurances from the US government, who had challenged the January verdict, including that Assange would not be held in the strictest prison conditions while in the country, and that he would be allowed to serve his sentence in his home country of Australia were he to be found guilty.
Following a two-day hearing in October, Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett ruled that the risk of suicide was ‘excluded by the assurances which are offered. It follows that we are satisfied that, if the assurances had been before the judge, she would have answered the relevant question differently’.
‘That conclusion is sufficient to determine this appeal in the USA’s favour,’ he said, per Sky News.
Assange is expected to appeal the ruling, which moves him a step closer to being brought to the US to face trial.
US lawyers had claimed that Assange’s mental illness ‘does not even come close’ to preventing him from being extradited.
According to the BBC, lawyers for the journalist rejected the assurances provided by the US, describing them as ‘meaningless’ and ‘vague’, and arguing that they did not remove the risk posed by ‘conditions of administrative isolation’.
The decision comes a month after Assange received permission to marry his partner, Stella Moris, in Belmarsh Prison where he has been in custody awaiting a verdict on his extradition case since April 2019.
In a statement following the ruling, Moris said, ‘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?’ referring to documents that showed CIA officials discussed the possibility of abducting or assassinating him in 2017.
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