Julian Assange Can Be Extradited to U.S. After New UK Court Ruling

Julian Assange Can Be Extradited to U.S. After New UK Court Ruling
Supporters of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, hold placards outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London on December 10, 2021. (Photo: Niklas Halle’n / AFP, Getty Images)

Julian Assange can be extradited to the U.S. based on a new UK court ruling early Friday, according to multiple reports from news outlets in London. A lower court ruled back in January that Assange couldn’t be extradited to the U.S. because he’d likely face torture in the American prison system and was in danger of killing himself.

The WikiLeaks cofounder faces 17 charges in the U.S., first brought by the Department of Justice under President Donald Trump, including computer hacking and a violation of the 1917 Espionage Act. The charges could bring a maximum of 175 years in prison.

The judge in the lower court, Vanessa Baraitser, pointed out that Assange would likely face solitary confinement, a punishment that most countries in the developed world consider to be torture.

“Mr. Assange faces the bleak prospect of severely restrictive detention conditions designed to remove physical contact and reduce social interaction and contact with the outside world to a bare minimum. He faces these prospects as someone with a diagnosis of clinical depression and persistent thoughts of suicide,” Judge Vanessa Baraitser wrote in her ruling.

But the appeals court disagreed, siding with the U.S. DOJ argument that Assange didn’t meet the threshold for someone so mentally ill that he’d be compelled to kill himself.

“That risk is in our judgment 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,” Chief Justice Lord Burnett said on Friday, according to the UK’s Express news outlet.

“That conclusion is sufficient to determine this appeal in the USA’s favour,” Burnett continued.

The U.S. also promised that Assange wouldn’t face torture and said he could serve out any prison sentence in his native Australia.

“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,” current WikiLeaks editor-in chief Kristinn Hrafnsson said in an emailed statement.

“This is about the right of a free press to publish without being threatened by a bullying superpower,” Hrafnsson continued.

Assange’s lawyers, along with a witness, claim Assange was offered a pardon by U.S. President Donald Trump in exchange for help from the WikiLeaks cofounder, an allegation that hasn’t been proven in a court of law but one that certainly sounds like Trump. The former president did not pardon Assange, obviously.

“We will appeal this decision at the earliest possible moment,” Stella Moris, Julian Assange’s fiancee, said in a statement emailed to Gizmodo.

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