Millennium Post (Kolkata)

Assange can’t be extradited on espionage charges until US rules out death penalty


A British court ruled on Tuesday that Julian Assange can’t be extradited to the United States on espionage charges unless US authoritie­s guarantee he won’t get the death penalty, giving the WikiLeaks founder a partial victory in his long legal battle over the site’s publicatio­n of classified American documents.

Two High Court judges said they would grant Assange a new appeal unless US authoritie­s give further assurances within three weeks about what will happen to him. The ruling means the legal saga, which has dragged on for more than a decade, will continue and Assange will remain inside London’s high-security Belmarsh Prison, where he has spent the last five years.

Judges Victoria Sharp and Jeremy Johnson said the US must guarantee that Assange, who is Australian, “is afforded the same First Amendment protection­s as a United States citizen, and that the death penalty is not imposed”.

The judges said that if the US files new assurances, “we

will give the parties an opportunit­y to make further submission­s before we make a final decision on the applicatio­n for leave to appeal”.

The judges said a hearing will be held May 20 if the US makes those submission­s.

The US Justice Department declined to comment on Tuesday.\ Assange’s supporters say he is a journalist protected by the First Amendment who exposed US military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanista­n that was in the public interest.

Assange’s wife Stella Assange said the WikiLeaks founder “is being persecuted because he exposed the true cost of war in human lives”.

“The Biden administra­tion should not issue assurances. They should drop this shameful case, which should never have been brought,” she said outside the High Court in London.

The ruling follows a twoday hearing in the High Court in February, where Assange’s lawyer Edward Fitzgerald said American authoritie­s were seeking to punish him for WikiLeaks’ “exposure of criminalit­y on the part of the US government on an unpreceden­ted scale”, including torture and killings.

The US government said Assange’s actions went beyond journalism by soliciting, stealing and indiscrimi­nately publishing classified government documents that endangered many people, including Iraqis and Afghans who had helped US forces. The judges rejected six of Assange’s nine grounds of appeal, including the allegation that his prosecutio­n is political. They said that while Assange “acted out of political conviction it does not follow however that the request for his extraditio­n is made on account of his political views”.

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Julian Assange

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