A London judge plans to rule on Monday whether Britain should extradite Julian Assange to the United States, where he is accused of plotting to hack WikiLeaks, the government and computers, and leaking classified documents in 2010 and 2011.
Mr Assange has been trying to avoid a verdict in favor of a US extradition request for years, and his supporters say it poses a serious threat to press freedom. Mr Assange has been sentenced to 175 years in prison if convicted on all charges.
If the judge rejects Vanessa Barotser’s extradition request, however, it will give Mr Assange a major victory at a time when the recent U.S. The administration has increasingly used the Espinage Act against the resources of journalists.
Here’s what you need to know about the judgment.
What are the possible consequences?
Judge Barrett will not rule on whether Mr. Assange is guilty of wrongdoing, but he will decide whether U.S. Whether the extradition request meets the requirements set out in the 2003 extradition treaty with Britain – that is, the alleged offense for which Mr Assange is wanted – could lead to a trial in Britain if he did so.
If the judge rules in favor of extradition, the case will go to the British Home Secretary, who will make the final decision on extradition. And that would be a politically delicate choice: Mr Assange is such a high profile person, and the allegations he has faced in the United States are so serious that the decision by the British authorities will have far-reaching consequences.
However, the appeal is likely to be kept for months before going to the Home Secretary. And if Mr Assange is to lose, his legal team could also try to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights. He can be released if he wins the appeal.
President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. could play a crucial role in determining Mr. Assange’s fate. “If British judges do justice to the extradition and the U.S. is able to extradite, it will be up to the new president to decide whether the government should continue the proceedings,” said Professor Carl Tobias. Law at Richmond University.
As vice president, Mr. Biden called the WikiLeaks founder a “high-tech terrorist” in 2010, but it is unclear what he will do as president. Mr Biden could pardon Mr Assange, or the Justice Department could drop charges against him or prosecute him.
Mr. Trump has also stepped up his call for forgiveness in recent weeks, as Mr. Trump has apologized and retaliated before his term ends.
Britain has denied extradition requests to the United States in recent years. In 2012, he refused to extradite a British hacker named Gary McKinnon, who broke into a U.S. government computer in 2002, leaving him critically ill. In 2018, a High Court ruling also blocked the extradition of Laurie Love, who was accused of hacking US government websites.
Judgments, and U.S. What’s the point with any trial of?
The verdict in favor of extradition could land Mr Assange in jail for life.
U.S. The government considers Mr. Assange to be a person who risked his life by revealing the names of U.S. goers and informants who provided valuable information in dangerous places, such as war zones.
James Lewis, a lawyer representing the U.S. government, told a British court last year that reporting or journalism is not a license to engage in criminal activity or break common criminal laws.
But news organizations and rights groups say the charges Mr Assange faces are a serious threat to the freedom of the press.
“The future of journalism and press freedom is at stake here,” said Rebecca Vincent, director of the London-based International Campaign on Borders Without Reporters.
“If the U.S. government succeeds in getting Mr. Assange extradited and taking legal action against him in the U.S., it can prosecute any journalist and news organization under similar charges,” Ms. Vincent added.
“The biggest risk for him in the US is that he will not face a fair trial,” said Greg Barnes, an Australian lawyer and Mr Assange’s adviser. Mr Barnes added: “He can spend the integration of life in a ruthless and arbitrary fashion.”
Why is Mr. Assange in a British prison?
In 2012, Mr Assange entered the Ecuadorian embassy in London to escape Sweden’s extradition request, where he was charged with rape. He spent seven years at the embassy, but was arrested by British police in 2019, and was later sentenced to 500 weeks in prison for bail.
Sweden’s charges have been dropped, and Mr Assange has completed his 50-week sentence. He has not been charged with any crime outside the United States, but is being held in London’s Belmarsh prison after Britain decided to extradite him. His bail applications have been denied.
Some doctors have said Mr Assange suffers from depression and memory loss and may attempt suicide if extradited.
Nils Melzer, the UN’s special body for torture and illness treatment, which investigated Mr Assange’s imprisonment, said last year that his detention was tantamount to “mental torture”.
“I can assure you that his health has deteriorated to the point where his life is now in danger,” Mr. Melzer said last month, urging Mr. Trump to forgive Mr. Assange.
Why did Mr. Assange want to be in the United States?
Mr Assange, 49, was charged in 2019 with 17 counts of violating the Espanyol Act to obtain and publish secret military and diplomatic documents. He was later charged with Computer Fraud and Violation of the Abuse Act.
Mr Assange has made him a hero to many through his promotion of government transparency, but he has also been criticized as a publicity seeker with an erratic personality.
The release of the goods has exposed various crimes and malpractices committed by the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan, and rights groups have called their release valuable information to the public. Right-wing groups such as Reporter with Border and Amnesty International have called for the allegations to be dropped.
“The activities that Julian Assange is involved in are activities that journalists are always busy with,” said Julia Haasley, Amnesty International’s expert on terrorism and criminal justice in Europe. “We wouldn’t have the information without them.”
What happened during the extradition hearing?
The hearing was delayed by coronavirus epidemics and technical hurdles that rights groups said hindered their ability to monitor.
In February, Mr. Assange appeared in a glass box, where, according to observers, he could not hear properly. In September, after Mr Assange’s outburst, the judge warned that he would be removed from the courtroom if he continued to interfere with the prosecution. U.S. Mr Lewis, who works for the government, argued that Mr Assange was facing extradition, not for handling the leaked documents, but for publishing the names of the informants.
In his final remarks, Mr Assange’s lawyers argued that espionage charges were a political crime and that extradition was prohibited on the basis of a political crime by the extradition treaty between Britain and the United States.
Asked if he would consent to extradition to the United States, Mr Assange replied: “No.”