Assange Faces UK Court Ruling On Extradition To US

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks on the balcony of the Embassy of Ecuador in London./AFP

 

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange faces a UK court ruling on Monday over whether he should be extradited to the United States on espionage charges for publishing hundreds of thousands of secret documents online.

District Judge Vanessa Baraitser is due to give her decision at the Old Bailey court in central London from 1000 GMT, in a case that has become a cause celebre for media freedom.

Assange, 49, faces 18 charges in the United States relating to the 2010 release by WikiLeaks of 500,000 secret files detailing aspects of military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The extradition hearing follows over a decade of international legal controversies surrounding the Australian publisher.

Monday’s court decision is subject to appeal, meaning legal proceedings in the country could still continue before any possible extradition.

If convicted in the United States, Assange could be jailed for up to 175 years.

Before the ruling, both Germany and a UN rights expert expressed concern over the human rights and humanitarian problems presented by the extradition.

Assange suffers from a respiratory condition that makes him more vulnerable to Covid-19, which has infected several inmates at the high-security prison in southeast London where he has been held.

Defence witnesses called during the hearing said Assange’s history of depression meant he would be a suicide risk if sent to the United States and locked up in a maximum-security prison.

He has also complained of hearing imaginary voices and music during his detention.

Clear message

Kristinn Hrafnsson, editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, told AFP on Sunday that he was “almost certain” the court will rule against Assange.

“We’ve seen such bias in the proceedings, there have been so many violations against Julian in the proceedings, that unfortunately I’m almost certain that the decision tomorrow will be that he should be extradited.”

In an earlier statement, he said that “the mere fact that this case has made it to court, let alone gone on this long, is an historic, large-scale attack on freedom of speech”.

United Nations special rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer has urged US President Donald Trump to pardon Assange, saying he is not “an enemy of the American people”.

“In pardoning Mr. Assange, Mr. President, you would send a clear message of justice, truth, and humanity to the American people and to the world,” he wrote in December.

“You would rehabilitate a courageous man who has suffered injustice, persecution, and humiliation for more than a decade, simply for telling the truth.”

The prospect of a possible pardon from the outgoing US leader has gained ground following a slew of pardons granted to a number of Trump’s political allies.

The UK hearing in February last year was told Trump promised to pardon Assange if he testified Russia hacked into the computer servers of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) during the 2016 election campaign.

WikiLeaks later published the emails, which proved politically damaging to his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton before the vote.

Stella Moris, Assange’s fiancee and the mother of his two young sons, has appealed to Trump directly. “The people want you to pardon Assange. Please listen,” she wrote on Twitter on Thursday.

In court, his lawyers have argued the charges against him are political while outside supporters have mounted a noisy daily vigil.

Baraitser will have to decide whether the US request for extradition is compatible with human rights.

Washington for its part claims Assange helped intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to steal the documents before exposing confidential sources around the world.

After Sweden first issued an arrest warrant for Assange in 2010 over allegations of sexual assault, he sought asylum in Ecuador’s embassy in London, where he remained from 2012 until 2019.

In April 2019, Ecuador, by then ruled by right-wing President Lenin Moreno, revoked his citizenship.

The following day, British police dragged Assange out of the embassy, having been informed that his asylum had been withdrawn. He was arrested by British police for breaching his bail terms.

The earlier Swedish assault investigation against him was later dropped due to lack of evidence.

Assange Begins UK Fight Against US Extradition

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks on the balcony of the Embassy of Ecuador in London./ AFP

 

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told a court on Thursday he would oppose extradition to the United States as the legal process began in London, a day after he was jailed for breaching his bail conditions in a former case.

He appeared via videolink at Westminster Magistrates Court, where a lawyer for the US authorities briefly set out his alleged involvement in the release of classified documents.

“I do not wish to surrender myself for extradition for doing journalism that has won many awards and protected many people,” Assange told the judge, who set the next hearing for May 30.

The Australian was jailed on Wednesday for 50 weeks for breaking his bail conditions in 2012 when he fled to Ecuador’s London embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden.

He was accused of sexual assault and rape but strongly denied the claims, saying they were linked to the whistleblowing work of WikiLeaks.

Assange feared they were a pretext to get him in custody and eventually transfer him to the United States to face prosecution.

He was dragged out of the embassy and arrested on April 11 after Quito gave him up. The Swedish claims had been dropped, but he was later that day convicted of skipping bail.

The 47-year-old was subsequently confronted with a warrant for extradition to the United States.

– Chats with Manning –
The US indictment charges him with “conspiracy” for working with former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to crack a password stored on Department of Defence computers in March 2010.

Manning passed hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks, exposing US military wrongdoing in the Iraq war and diplomatic secrets about scores of countries.

The charge carries a maximum jail term of five years.

A lawyer for the US government, Ben Brandon, told the court on Thursday that investigators had found chatroom conversations between Assange and Manning in March 2010.

He said they “engaged in real-time discussions regarding Chelsea Manning’s dissemination of confidential records to Mr Assange”.

He added that Assange “actively tried to crack the password (to the classified computer) and encouraged Ms Manning to provide more information”.

Assange’s supporters, who protested outside the court on Thursday, believe that more serious charges could be filed if he is transferred to the US, and he fears the death penalty.

WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson said on Wednesday that all efforts would be focused on preventing Assange’s extradition.

“It will be a question of life and death,” he warned.

In a letter read out in court on Wednesday, Assange apologised for skipping bail seven years ago.

“I did what I thought at the time was the best or perhaps the only thing that I could have done,” he said, adding: “I apologise unreservedly.”

The next hearing in the US extradition case is only for further case management, and the whole process could take years.

The Swedish claims against Assange date back to 2010 when he was at the centre of a global storm over WikiLeaks’ exposures.

The sexual assault claim expired in 2015 but while the rape claim was dropped in 2017, the alleged victim wants the case reopened.

Assange Sentenced To 50 Weeks For Breaching UK Court Order

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gestures from the window of a prison van as he is driven out of Southwark Crown Court in London on May 1, 2019, after having been sentenced to 50 weeks / AFP

 

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was sentenced Wednesday to 50 weeks in jail for breaching a British court order seven years ago, when he took refuge in Ecuador’s London embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden.

The Australian whistleblower, who was arrested on April 11 after Ecuador gave him up, will serve the nearly one-year sentence while fighting a separate attempt to transfer him to the United States.

The 47-year-old, his shaggy beard neatly trimmed, raised his fist to supporters in the public gallery at London’s Southwark Crown Court as he was taken down to the cells.

READ ALSO:  Assange Faces Jail Term For UK Bail Breach

They responded by raising theirs and shouting “Shame on you!” towards the court.

Assange fled to Ecuador’s embassy in 2012 after a British judge ordered his extradition to face Swedish allegations of sexual assault and rape, which he strongly denied.

He claimed the allegations were a pretext to transfer him to the United States, where he feared prosecution over the release by WikiLeaks of millions of classified documents.

At the sentencing hearing, his lawyer Mark Summers said Assange had been “gripped” by “reasonable fears” that he would face rendition to the US.

“As threats rained down on him from America, they overshadowed everything as far as he was concerned,” the lawyer said.

In a letter read out on his behalf, Assange expressed regret, saying: “I did what I thought at the time was the best or perhaps the only thing that I could have done.”

There is no longer an active investigation in Sweden and the extradition request has lapsed.

However, Assange is facing a US extradition request, which was only revealed following his dramatic arrest, when he was dragged shouting from the embassy by police.

– US hacking conspiracy charge –
Assange appeared in court within hours of his arrest, and a judge found him guilty of breaching his bail conditions.

The biggest concern for his lawyers is the US extradition request. An initial hearing in the case has been scheduled for this Thursday.

The US indictment charges him with “conspiracy” for working with former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to crack a password stored on Department of Defence computers in March 2010.

Manning passed hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks, exposing US military wrongdoing in the Iraq war and diplomatic secrets about scores of countries around the world.

Assange could face up to five years in jail if found guilty, although his team is fighting his extradition and the process could take years.

The charge has raised serious concerns among organisations advocating free speech, including politicians such as British opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

WikiLeaks is also back in the news in the United States, over its alleged role in the leak of Hillary Clinton’s emails in 2016 US presidential election.

The Swedish claims against Assange date back to 2010, when he was at the centre of a global storm over WikiLeaks’ exposures.

The sexual assault claim expired in 2015, but while the rape claim was dropped in 2017, the alleged victim wants the case reopened.

If Stockholm makes a formal extradition request, Britain must decide whether to consider it before or after that of the United States.

A group of British lawmakers have urged the Swedish case to take precedence, saying the rights of the alleged victims must not be lost in the political row.

Assange Faces Jail Term For UK Bail Breach

(FILES) In this file photo taken on May 19, 2017 Wikileaks founder Julian Assange raises his fist on the balcony of the Embassy of Ecuador in London. Justin TALLIS / AFP

 

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will be sentenced Wednesday for breaching a British court order seven years ago when he took refuge in Ecuador’s London embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden.

The Australian whistleblower, who was arrested on April 11 after Ecuador gave him up, raised a clenched fist as he arrived in a prison van at Southwark Crown Court.

A handful of supporters held up placards saying “Free Julian Assange” ahead of the hearing, in which he could face a 12-month prison sentence.

Assange fled to Ecuador’s embassy in 2012 after a British judge ordered his extradition to face Swedish allegations of sexual assault and rape, which he strongly denied.

READ ALSO: Turkey’s Erdogan Condemns ‘Coup Attempt’ In Venezuela

He claimed the allegations were a pretext to transfer him to the United States, where he feared prosecution over the release by WikiLeaks of millions of classified documents.

There is no longer an active investigation in Sweden and the extradition request has lapsed.

However, the 47-year-old is facing a US extradition request, which was only revealed following his dramatic arrest, when he was dragged shouting from the embassy by police.

– US hearing on Thursday –
Assange appeared in court within hours of his arrest, and a judge found him guilty of breaching his bail conditions.

Any sentence handed down on Wednesday is likely to take into account the past few weeks spent in jail.

The biggest concern for his lawyers is the US extradition request. An initial hearing in the case is set for this Thursday.

The US indictment charges him with “conspiracy” for working with former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to crack a password stored on Department of Defence computers in March 2010.

Manning passed hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks, exposing US military wrongdoing in the Iraq war and diplomatic secrets about scores of countries around the world.

Assange could face up to five years in jail if found guilty, although his team is fighting his extradition and the process could take years.

The charge has raised serious concerns among organisations advocating free speech, including politicians such as British opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

WikiLeaks is also back in the news in the United States, over its alleged role in the leak of Hillary Clinton’s emails in 2016 US presidential election.

The Swedish claims against Assange date back to 2010, when he was at the centre of a global storm over WikiLeaks’ exposures.

The sexual assault claim expired in 2015, but while the rape claim was dropped in 2017, the alleged victim wants the case reopened.

If Stockholm makes a formal extradition request, Britain must decide whether to consider it before or after that of the United States.

A group of British lawmakers have urged the Swedish case to take precedence, saying the rights of the alleged victims must not be lost in the political row.

Assange’s Father Calls On Australia To Bring Him Home

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks on the balcony of the Embassy of Ecuador in London./ AFP

 

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s father on Sunday called on Australia to bring his son home, saying he was shocked to see his son’s condition after his arrest in London last week.

John Shipton — who was secretary of the Wikileaks Party when his son tried to run for a Senate seat in 2013 national elections — reportedly visited Assange every Christmas at the Ecuadore embassy in London after he sought refuge there in 2012.

“DFAT (Department of Foreign Affairs) and the prime minister should in a nuanced way do something,” Shipton told Melbourne’s Sunday Herald Sun.

“It can be resolved simply to the satisfaction of all. There has been some talk in a meeting between a senator and a senior DFAT official to extradite Julian to Australia.”

READ ALSOBritish Police Arrest WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange

Shipton said he was shocked to see the state of his son when he was arrested at the embassy on Thursday on allegations of skipping bail, and on a US extradition warrant related to a huge leak of official documents.

“I saw him, the way they dragged him down the steps, the coppers (police), he didn’t look good. I’m 74 and I look better than him and he’s 47. It’s such a shock,” he said.

“For months and months he has been living like a high-security prisoner, he can’t even go to the toilet. There have been cameras watching his every move.”

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Friday that Assange would receive “no special treatment” from Canberra.

The 47-year-old Australian had sought refuge in the embassy while on bail awaiting extradition to Sweden to face charges of sexual assault and rape, which he always denied.

British lawmakers on Saturday urged their government to prioritise any extradition bid Sweden might make for him over the allegations.

Swedish prosecutors dropped a preliminary investigation into the rape allegation in 2017.

British Court Finds Assange Guilty Of Breaching Bail

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks on the balcony of the Embassy of Ecuador in London./ AFP

 

A London court on Thursday found WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange guilty of breaching his bail conditions in 2012 and remanded him into custody pending sentencing.

Assange faces up to 12 months in prison on the charge.

READ ALSOBritish Police Arrest WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange

He will face another court hearing on May 2 on a US request for his extradition for alleged computer hacking.

 

Assange Faces Up To 5 Years In Prison On Hacking Charges – Justice Dept

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks from a balcony at the Embassy of Ecuador in London./ AFP

 

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange faces up to 5 years in prison on hacking charges.

He was arrested in London on a US warrant charging him over his alleged role in a massive leak of military and diplomatic documents in 2010, the Justice Department said Thursday.

READ ALSOBritish Police Arrest WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange

Assange faces up to five years in jail on a federal charge of “conspiracy to commit computer intrusion for agreeing to break a password to a classified US government computer,” according to a statement.

The indictment alleges Assange conspired with Chelsea Manning, a former US Army intelligence analyst, to crack a password stored on Department of Defense computers, leading to “one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States,” the statement said.

UK Court Upholds Assange Arrest Warrant

(FILE PHOTO) Julian Assange

A British judge upheld an arrest warrant for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Tuesday but delayed until next week her decision on a further application by his lawyers to cancel it.

Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadoran embassy since 2012 to dodge a European arrest warrant and extradition to Sweden over a 2010 probe there into rape and sexual assault allegations against him.

Sweden dropped its investigation last year.

But British police are still seeking to arrest Assange for failing to surrender to a court after violating his bail terms during his unsuccessful battle against extradition.

“I’m not persuaded that the warrant should be withdrawn,” Judge Emma Arbuthnot told a court in London, explaining that Assange had breached his bail conditions in 2012.

But she said she would rule separately on another application from Assange’s lawyers asking her to consider whether it would be in the “public interest” to keep the warrant in place.

That ruling will be issued on February 13.

Ecuadoran President Lenin Moreno said the court’s decision did not affect Quito’s attitude.

“The decisions that the court makes definitely have an effect, but they do not determine our decision and we will continue to provide our protection to Mr Assange,” Moreno said at a meeting in Quito with the foreign press.

Moreno, who came to power in May, said he had undertaken from “the first day of his term” to protect Assange, considering his life to be “in danger”.

Ecuador’s foreign ministry said it wants to reach a solution with Britain that satisfies both sides and respects Assange’s human rights.

Assange’s lawyer Mark Summers had argued in court last week that the British arrest warrant had “lost its purpose and its function”.

He said Assange had been living in conditions “akin to imprisonment” and his “psychological health” has deteriorated and was “in serious peril”.

“The last five-and-a-half years that he has spent may be thought to be adequate, if not severe punishment, for the actions that he took,” Summers said.

The court heard that the 46-year-old was suffering from a bad tooth, a frozen shoulder and depression.

But prosecutor Aaron Watkins earlier called Assange’s court bid “absurd”.

“The proper approach is that when a discrete, standalone offence of failing to surrender occurs, it always remains open to this court to secure the arrest,” he said.

Assange has refused to leave the embassy, claiming he fears being extradited to the United States over WikiLeaks’ publication of secret US military documents and diplomatic cables in 2010.

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions last year said his arrest was a “priority”.

‘Face justice’ 

Assange only very rarely emerges onto the balcony of the embassy building, citing concerns for his personal safety, but he frequently takes part in media conferences and campaigns via video link.

Ecuador in December granted citizenship to the Australian-born Assange, and asked Britain to recognise him as a diplomat, in an unsuccessful attempt to provide him with immunity and usher him out of its embassy without the threat of arrest.

But London swiftly rejected the move.

“Ecuador knows that the way to resolve this issue is for Julian Assange to leave the embassy to face justice,” the British government said.

Assange has strained the patience of his hosts during his long stay.

He was publicly reprimanded for interfering in the 2016 US election after publishing emails from Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign team.

More recently, he drew the ire of Moreno when he used Twitter to issue messages of support for Catalonia’s independence drive. The Ecuadoran president was forced to respond to complaints from the Spanish government.

Moreno admitted last month Assange was an “inherited problem” that had created “more than a nuisance” for his government.

“We hope to have a positive result in the short term,” Moreno said in an interview with television networks.

AFP

Assange Will Not ‘Forgive Or Forget’ Rape Probe

File photo

Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange has said he will not forgive or forget the rape allegation or investigation that forced him to seek asylum and stay at Ecuador’s embassy in London for five years.

Assange said this on Friday after Sweden dropped its probe into the allegation of rape against him.

“Today is an important victory for me and for the U.N. human rights system. But it by no means erases seven years of detention without charge, imprisoned under house arrest and almost five years here in this embassy without sunlight.

“Seven years without charge while my children grew up without me. That is not something I can forgive, it is not something I can forget.”

Appearing on the balcony of the central London embassy where he has spent five years, Assange criticised Western governments but said he was prepared to enter into dialogue with London and Washington.

“But let us understand, while today was an important victory, and important vindication, the road is far from over. The war, the proper war, is just commencing,” he said.

“The UK has said it will arrest me regardless. Now the United States, CIA’s Director (Mike) Pompeo and the U.S. attorney general have said that I and other WikiLeaks staff have no rights, we have no First Amendment rights, and that my arrest and the arrest of our other staff is a priority. That’s not acceptable. WikiLeaks will continue its publications.”

Assange, 45, took refuge in the embassy in June 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden after two women made rape and sexual molestation allegations against him, which he denies.

He feared Sweden would hand him over to the United States to face prosecution over WikiLeaks’ publication of swathes of classified military and diplomatic documents in one of the largest information leaks in U.S. history.

Although Sweden has dropped the probe, UK police said Assange would be arrested if he leaves the embassy, saying a warrant for the 45-year-old’s arrest was issued when he failed to surrender to the court in 2012 and that the Metropolitan Police Service is obliged to execute that warrant.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said she won’t interfere with that decision.

“In relation to Julian Assange, any decision that is taken about the UK action in relation to him were he to leave the Ecuadorian Embassy would be an operational matter for the police,” she said.

Assange, however, criticised the position of the UK, saying, “The claim by the United Kingdom, that it has a right to arrest me for seeking asylum, a case where there have been no charges, which is now being dismissed, is simply untenable. My legal staff have contacted the United Kingdom authorities, and we hope to engage in a dialogue about what is the best way forward.”