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Julian Assange: WikiLeaks founder can be extradited to the US, rules UK High Court

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By Euronews
Stella Moris, partner of Julian Assange, speaks to journalists in front of the High Court in London, Friday, Dec. 10, 2021
Stella Moris, partner of Julian Assange, speaks to journalists in front of the High Court in London, Friday, Dec. 10, 2021   -   Copyright  Credit: AP   -  

A British court has ruled that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can be extradited to the US where he faces up to 175 years in jail over the 2020 release of top-secret diplomatic cables by Wikileaks.

The High Court overturned a January 4 ruling by District Judge Vanessa Baraitser that the Wikileaks founder could not be extradited on mental health grounds following an appeal by the US.

On August 11, 2021, the court allowed the US to widen the scope of its appeal, and on 27 and 28 October, the court heard arguments from both parties.

Baraitser had said that Assange, who is currently being held at Belmarsh prison in London, was unable to cope with the harsh prison system in the US and was a suicide risk if he was extradited.

But the High Court said it had received guarantees that Assange, 50, would not be sent to a so-called "supermax" prison.

'Travesty of justice'

“This is a travesty of justice," said Nils Muižnieks, Amnesty International's Europe director, arguing that the US assurances about prison conditions, "are not worth the paper they are written on."

Muižnieks said that the case posed a grave threat to press freedom both in the US and abroad.

Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said that the case had "dangerous implications for the future of journalism and press freedom around the world."

US prosecutors have indicted Assange on 17 espionage charges and one charge of computer misuse over WikiLeaks’ publication of thousands of leaked military and diplomatic documents.

The charges carry a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison, although government lawyer James Lewis said: “the longest sentence ever imposed for this offence is 63 months".

Assange still has the opportunity to appeal the ruling and continue to fight extradition.