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UK approves extradition order for Assange

LONDON — The British government on Friday approved an extradition order for Julian Assange, the embattled founder of WikiLeaks, upholding a court decision that he may be sent to the United States to stand trial on espionage charges, though his legal fight against the decision is not final. on.

While the order is a serious blow to Assange, whose case is seen by human rights groups as a possible challenge to press freedom, he is likely to appeal the decision again in a British court, an avenue that experts say legal, is still open.

A Home Office spokesman said that “on June 17, after consideration by both the Magistrates’ Court and the High Court, Mr. Julian Assange was ordered extradited to the United States,” adding that “Mr. Assange retains the normal 14-day right of appeal.”

The Home Office pointed to a British court ruling that did not find “that it would be oppressive, unfair or an abuse of process to extradite Mr. Assange.”

Furthermore, the courts did not find that extradition “would be inconsistent with his human rights, including his right to a fair trial and freedom of expression, and that while in the US he will be treated appropriately, including in relation to his health.” . ”

His defense team has yet to say what comes next. The approval of the order by Priti Patel, the home secretary, is just the latest twist in a long court battle and comes after a British court ordered Assange’s extradition in April.

In 2019, Assange was indicted in the United States under the Espionage Act in connection with obtaining and publishing classified government documents about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq on WikiLeaks in 2010. Those files were leaked by Chelsea Manning, a former analyst at military intelligence. , before being published by the site.

Throughout the protracted legal battle against his extradition, Assange remained in custody at London’s Belmarsh Prison, where he was held for almost three years. Assange married his partner Stella Moris in prison this year.

He was arrested in London in 2019 after spending seven years locked up in the Ecuadorian embassy in an effort to avoid arrest while fighting extradition to Sweden, where he was wanted for questioning in a rape investigation. That case was later dropped.

Under current government guidelines, Ms. Patel can only block extradition requests in a small number of circumstances. That includes cases involving people previously extradited or transferred to Britain from elsewhere, others involving people facing the death penalty, or those who could be charged with additional, previously unannounced crimes after their transfers.

But if neither of those issues were involved, Ms Patel would have no reason to refuse an extradition request and would be required to comply, according to the Home Office.

However, Mr. Assange’s legal team will still be able to appeal to Britain’s High Court both over Ms. Patel’s decision and other potentially worrying points about the US application. The High Court will then decide which points Mr. Assange can appeal, if any. This process could take several months.

Once he has exhausted his options in the British courts, Assange could also try to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, although it remains unclear how much authority he will have over Britain’s decision after he leaves the European Union.

Rights groups have expressed concern that Assange’s extradition to the United States could threaten press freedomand when the court made a decision on his case, several organizations denounced the measure.

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