The United States will begin today (Wednesday) an appeal to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to face espionage charges on US soil.
It comes after a British judge rejected an application earlier this year.
The US government said it was “extremely disappointed” by British District Judge Vanessa Baraitser’s January decision, which was made on the basis of Assange’s mental health and the likelihood that he will take his life in prison. super security.
Washington will challenge that ruling in a two-day hearing beginning Wednesday, arguing that the judge “did not appreciate the weight” of expert evidence that said he was not at risk of suicide.
Instead, he claimed the judge was “misled” by relying too heavily on the testimony of Assange’s psychiatric expert Michael Kopelman.
Assange, 50, was arrested in Britain in 2019 for missing bail after spending seven years inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London to evade extradition to Sweden to face sexual assault charges, which were later dropped.
Although his extradition was blocked, Assange was denied bail pending the outcome of the appeal over concerns that he might escape. He is being held at Belmarsh High Security Prison in London.
Lawyers representing the United States hope to extradite Australian-born Assange to face 17 counts of espionage and one of computer misuse in connection with the release of secret military documents from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
If convicted in the United States, he faces a maximum sentence of 175 years in jail.
Assange ‘looks very bad’
Assange’s partner Stella Moris, a former member of his legal team and the mother of his two children, is leading a vocal campaign to support the Wikileaks founder.
Moris told reporters that she had visited Assange in prison on Saturday and was “puzzled” by how thin he looked.
“It looked really bad,” he said. “The point was that Julian would not survive the extradition, that was the judge’s conclusion.”
At the press conference, Moris referred to a recent media investigation that found that the CIA, under President Trump’s administration, had “prepared sketches” on how to assassinate or kidnap Assange from the embassy.
“This is a game changer going into the appeal because it shows the true nature, the true origins, the true criminality of the US actions against Julian,” Moris told reporters. “The big picture here is, can the UK really extradite a person to the country that was plotting to assassinate him?”
‘Free press at risk’
Assange was accused of violating US espionage law by leaking US files and hacking, relying on alleged help he provided former military intelligence officer Chelsea Manning in obtaining the documents from secure military computer systems.
But the US case raised free speech issues, and Assange and his advocates argued that WikiLeaks enjoys the rights of any other outlet to publish secret materials of public interest.
Rebecca Vincent of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said she had been “the target of her contributions to public interest reporting.”
Vincent told reporters that US President Joe Biden had missed an opportunity to “distance himself from his predecessors” in the case and urged him to abandon it.
The WikiLeaks founder sought, but failed, to obtain a pardon from Trump, whose 2016 election campaign benefited from WikiLeaks’ publication of materials that harmed his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
If the US appeal is successful, the case will be sent back to the lower court for a new decision.
But even then, the legal battle may not be over, with the possibility of a new final appeal to the UK Supreme Court.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism