Julian Assange took a step closer being extradited today after Priti Patel signed an order agreeing to send him to the US to face espio
Julian Assange took a step closer being extradited today after Priti Patel signed an order agreeing to send him to the US to face espionage charges and potentially a 175-year jail sentence.
The Home Secretary has rubber stamped the order issued by Westminster Magistrates’ Court to fly the WikiLeaks founder to America for trial.
Assange, who is currently held in Belmarsh Prison in south-east London, has 14 days to appeal.
WikiLeaks have already said they will, claiming today is a ‘dark day for press freedom and British democracy’ and accusing Ms Patel of choosing not to ‘do the right thing’.
Julian Assange’s (pictured) extradition to the United States moved one step closer today after Priti Patel signed an order agreeing he could be sent to the US
A Home Office spokesman said: ‘Under the Extradition Act 2003, the Secretary of State must sign an extradition order if there are no grounds to prohibit the order being made. Extradition requests are only sent to the Home Secretary once a judge decides it can proceed after considering various aspects of the case.
‘On 17 June, following consideration by both the Magistrates Court and High Court, the extradition of Mr Julian Assange to the US was ordered. Mr Assange retains the normal 14-day right to appeal.
‘In this case, the UK courts have not found that it would be oppressive, unjust or an abuse of process to extradite Mr Assange.
‘Nor have they found that extradition would be incompatible with his human rights, including his right to a fair trial and to freedom of expression, and that whilst in the US he will be treated appropriately, including in relation to his health.’
WikiLeaks say they will appeal.
Anyone in this country who cares about freedom of expression should be deeply ashamed that the Home Secretary has approved the extradition of Julian Assange to the United States, the country that plotted his assassination,’ the organisation said in a statement posted to Twitter.
‘Julian did nothing wrong. He has committed no crime and is not a criminal. He is a journalist and a publisher, and he is being punished for doing his job.
‘It was in Priti Patel’s power to do the right thing. Instead she will forever be remembered as an accomplice of the United States in its agenda to turn investigative journalism into a criminal enterprise.’
WikiLeaks said the decision is ‘not the end of the fight’ and it will launch an appeal via the High Court.
It said Mr Assange is facing a ‘political case’ in which there is an attempt to ‘disappear him into the darkest recesses of their prison system for the rest of his life to deter others from holding governments to account’.
‘We will not let that happen,’ the statement adds. ‘Julian’s freedom is coupled to all our freedoms. We will fight to return Julian to his family and to regain freedom of expression for us all.’
Assange’s supporters, including former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and members of Amnesty International, held a protest outside the court in the build up to the hearing in April.
Supporters held banners with slogans including ‘Free Assange’ and ‘Don’t Extradite Assange’.
Assange’s wife, Stella Moris, who married the imprisoned WikiLeaks founder last month, was also at the hearing and sat in the public gallery.
Assange is wanted in America over an alleged conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information following WikiLeaks’ publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. He has always denied wrongdoing.
Assange has been held in Belmarsh prison for three years since being dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
In March he was denied permission to appeal his extradition to the US. He asked the Supreme Court to allow him to challenge a December 2021 decision by the High Court, which ruled he could be extradited to America.
However, in March the Supreme Court confirmed it had rejected Assange’s appeal request.
The Supreme Court, the UK’s highest court, denied his request to challenge the ruling as his application did not raise ‘an arguable point of law’.
After the hearing, lawyers for Assange issued a statement and raised concerns about the reliance of the court on the US’s guarantee regarding the prison conditions Mr Assange would be kept in, should he be extradited.
Assange is wanted in America over an alleged conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information.
If convicted in the US, Assange faces a possible penalty of up to 175 years in jail, his lawyers have said.
However the US government said the sentence was more likely to be between four and six years.
It followed WikiLeaks’ publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
He says the information exposed abuses by the US military, but the US say the leaks of classified material endangered lives, and so the US sought his extradition from the UK.
US authorities brought a successful High Court challenge against a January ruling by then-district judge Vanessa Baraitser that Assange should not be sent to the US, in which she cited a real and ‘oppressive’ risk of suicide.
Assange wed partner, Ms Moris, at Belmarsh prison last month.
Moris left the high security jail linked arm in arm with her father-in-law wearing a dress designed by Vivienne Westwood.
Assange’s wife, Stella Moris, who married the imprisoned WikiLeaks founder last month, was also at the hearing and sat in the public gallery
Supporters held banners with slogans including ‘Free Assange’ and ‘Don’t Extradite Assange’ outside the court today
Assange’s supporters, including former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and members of Amnesty International, held a protest outside the court in the build up to the hearing
Stella Moris, 38, married 50-year-old Julian Assange (left) in Belmarsh Prison, south east London on March 23, just weeks before the third anniversary of his dramatic arrest when he was dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy in the capital in April 2019
Fighting back tears and wearing her wedding dress, she said: ‘I’m very happy but I’m very sad… I wish he were here… What we’re going through is inhuman.’
She added: ‘He’s the most amazing person in the world and he should be free.
‘But our love will carry us through.’.
Mr Assange married Ms Moris, 38, in front of four guests and two witnesses this afternoon. Two prison officers attended the ceremony, one of whom acted as official photographer.
Assange and his new wife, Ms Moris announced their engagement in November last year.
The couple, who have two children together – Max, two, and Gabriel, four – were wed by registrar inside the prison shortly after midday.