British justice will not decide on Assange’s extradition to the US until at least March

After two days of hearings and years of legal battles, the High Court in London will decide in the coming weeks whether WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can continue to appeal against his extradition to the United States on espionage charges. Puts. And hacking IT for more than a decade. A decision is not expected before early March.

In any case, if the legal avenues before British justice have been exhausted, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg can still intervene with an emergency measure to prevent the deportation of an Australian citizen from the United Kingdom to the United States.

The judge of the High Court of England and Scotland in charge of the case must decide whether Assange can start a new appeals process from scratch, which would extend the current waiting period by years. The parties will submit more documents and the court has until March 4 to examine it, so a decision is not expected before that date.

The two-day hearing did not discuss the merits of the case and public access was limited, as is the case in the United Kingdom, but activists, journalists, MPs and Assange supporters waited for hours outside the court amid slogans and speeches of support. They then marched towards Downing Street, the headquarters of the British government, to continue the protest.

The case began in the spring of 2019, when Donald Trump was president and the Justice Department filed an 18-count indictment against Assange for “conspiring” to obtain classified national security information. hacking According to the indictment, the classified documents were disseminated without taking precautions to avoid breaking official systems and endangering journalists, activists and other civilians in Afghanistan, Iran, China and Syria.

The charges refer to WikiLeaks’ actions between 2009 and 2011, but the Justice Department of the previous United States government, Barack Obama, then decided not to file charges against Assange, noting that he was protected by the First Amendment. could go. The Constitution of the United States, which provides extensive protection for freedom of speech and of the press. On the other hand, Chelsea Manning, a former US Army analyst and the person who handed over the documents to Assange and whom, according to the allegations, the Australian pressured to obtain more information, was prosecuted and convicted. . In May 2017, Manning was released from prison after receiving a pardon from Obama after serving seven years in prison (of a 35-year sentence).

The documents Manning leaked to condemn the abuses included the publication in 2010 of a 2007 video of a US military helicopter shooting and killing 11 civilians, including two Reuters journalists, near Baghdad. The agency had already requested the video from the Pentagon and viewed it shortly after the events, although it did not have authorization to save or play it. The Baghdad editor-in-chief of Reuters said the US military had “lied” about the circumstances.

Among the most important information, in principle filtered and published collaboratively new York Times and other media (in Spain, Country), are internal Pentagon reports on civilian and military victims of the Iraq War between 2004 and 2009. Although there were already official estimates of the dead and injured, the reports made it possible to compare sources and make the estimate more faithful to reality, which included more than 15,000 deaths.

WikiLeaks also published in 2011 partly on its own and partly on new York Times In 2004, more information about abuses against prisoners at Guantanamo was revealed by CBS Television, the AP news agency and the Weekly, along with other sources. New Yorker, among others.

What is a journalist?

Many organizations defending freedom of the press believe that Assange’s conviction in the United States could set a legal precedent on the limits of the First Amendment. Supporters of this argument, including Guardian And other newspapers with which Assange collaborated emphasize that the exclusive use of the Anti-Espionage Act of 1917 is dangerous because it does not take into account the relevance of the published information.

This Wednesday, the lawyer representing the United States in a London court argued that Assange is not a journalist because “he knowingly and indiscriminately published for the entire world the names of individuals who were sources of information for the United States.” Were” and that this “distinguishes the plaintiff’s position from that.” new York Times and other media.”

The United States Constitution does not contain a precise definition of what a journalist is and is not. Such a case could reach the Supreme Court, which has a history of ruling in favor of freedom of expression and press with fewer legal limits than in countries like the United Kingdom or Spain.

The most controversial part about WikiLeaks’ standards is the protection of the sources that were at risk. Many media that cooperated with WikiLeaks, such as CountryHe new York Times And this Guardiancriticized the fact that, when he published the information himself, Assange did not show concern for the safety of people who might be targets of terrorists and authoritarian governments.

The United States government said on Wednesday that political activists, dissidents and other citizens were forced to flee their country or “disappear” after their names were published on WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks documents were among those found during a 2011 raid by U.S. special forces on the home in Pakistan where Osama bin Laden, the leader of the al Qaeda terrorist network, was hiding, as detailed in the indictment.

relationship with trump

Assange’s defense assured this Tuesday that the case against him is “politically motivated” and began as a campaign by Trump against all journalists.

The former President of the United States and the founder of WikiLeaks have a complicated relationship. Assange cooperated with the Russian government hacking According to media outlets such as Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, Democratic Party servers were searched for information that could harm her in the election against Trump. foreign policy And this Guardian, among others. Then Trump’s team was in permanent contact with WikiLeaks, as confirmed by the investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller.

Assange’s lawyers assured during the trial in London in 2020 that Trump had proposed making a deal through an intermediary from the Republican Party if the WikiLeaks founder assured that Russia had nothing to do with it. hacking Democratic Party emails. Then the Trump White House denied it.

At the DE’s hearing this Tuesday and Wednesday, Assange’s defense claimed Trump was “planning to kidnap and murder” the WikiLeaks founder while he was at the embassy in London.

Stella Assange, a lawyer and mother of his two children who has been married to the WikiLeaks founder since 2022, compared her husband to Russian rival Alexei Navalny, who died in an Arctic prison and whose body is still being held by Russian authorities. An official reason. According to Stella, “The same thing could happen to her husband as happened to Navalny.”

According to his wife, Assange, 52, did not want to attend this week’s hearing online because he was feeling unwell. “He was sick over Christmas, he has had a cough since then,” said Stella Assange, who also spoke at a protest organized in her husband’s defense during the two days of the hearing before the court.

rape allegation

Assange has been fighting a legal battle since the 1990s in Australia, where he was convicted in 1996. hacking An Australian university computer and network used by the United States military. So, he was already one of the most famous hackers in the country, but he only had to pay the fine because the judge didn’t see any “maliciousness” in his actions.

His most serious legal problems in the United Kingdom began in 2010, when he was arrested at the request of Sweden on charges of rape and other sexual abuse of two women in London. While out on bail in 2012, he took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid legal proceedings in Sweden, where he remained for seven years.

In April 2019, Assange was arrested at the embassy after Ecuador withdrew diplomatic protection following years of tension. The United Kingdom accused him of ignoring his bail conditions and responding to an extradition request from the United States for leaks. A few months later, a Swedish prosecutor decided to drop the rape case because, although the victim was “credible”, as she explained, the time that had passed had made it impossible to obtain information to prove the charges. .

Assange has been imprisoned in a high-security prison on the outskirts of London since 2019, while his legal team has appealed on several occasions for an extradition order to the United States until the final legal avenues in the United Kingdom are exhausted.

United States and Australia

In 2021, British justice blocked extradition because it acknowledged that Assange was at risk of self-harm if he was deported to the United States. A further appeal against Assange was ruled on in April 2022, and in June that year, then-Interior Minister Priti Patel signed the extradition order.

Assange’s lawyers say that if found guilty, he could face up to 175 years in prison. American officials say that if he is found guilty, the punishment will be much less. The United States government, concerned about Assange’s mental health, told a United Kingdom court in 2021 that, if convicted, the accused would not be imprisoned in a maximum security prison and would even be freed from prison in his native He can also serve his sentence in Australia.

The Australian government and parliament have asked President Joe Biden to stop action against Assange. Additionally, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese complained about the length of the process: “Enough is enough… This cannot go on indefinitely,” he said last week.

The United States Department of Justice operates independently within the government and is under additional pressure on the Biden administration not to interfere with its work in an election year and multiple legal proceedings open against Trump. The President has the power to pardon Assange in any case he is convicted of.

(TagstoTranslate)British Justice

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