Julian Assange cannot be extradited to the USA. What sounds like a triumph for the Wikileaks founder is not much more than a stage win.
A British court has ruled that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange cannot be extradited to the USA. As a reason, the judge allegedly cites “brutal” prison conditions, which could worsen his mental health. But the judgment is not final and can be appealed.
The answers to the four most important questions about the procedure.
What is Assange accused of in the US?
Julian Assange would have to answer in court if extradited to the US because of his alleged complicity in the hacking attack on the US government. He is alleged to have helped whistleblower Chelsea Manning crack a password that revealed intelligence about the military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, including the willful killing of civilians. For this charge, he would face a prison sentence of up to five years.
However, there are 17 other charges. The allegations are based on alleged espionage activity and relate to the disclosure of classified material, which could have endangered the lives of classified informants and the national security of the United States. In total, Assange could face up to 175 years in prison. However, many allegations are controversial.
Why is there criticism of the indictment in the US?
Journalists’ associations see the Assange case as a threat to press freedom, as some of the charges could also criminalize the work of investigative journalists. Under US President Barack Obama, the administration found no legal difference to the work of traditional media in an audit.
Human rights activists, politicians and organizations such as Reporters Without Borders also warn that Assange will not get a fair trial in the US. However, there are also voices in journalists’ circles who remind people that journalists must not commit a criminal offense – for example by actively participating in the theft of secret material. Media such as the “New York Times” had blackened names in their publications of the material to protect the lives of informants, unlike Wikileaks.
What did the court in London decide?
The court did not primarily examine the allegations themselves, but rather the legality of an extradition under the extradition treaty between Great Britain and the USA. The judge based her decision that Assange should not be extradited on the grounds of his mental health and the conditions of detention that await him in the United States. It is to be expected that he will commit suicide in solitary confinement. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, had already criticized the conditions of solitary confinement in Great Britain as torture.
However, the judge made it clear that the case was not politically motivated. Assange’s behavior went beyond the normal behavior of an investigative journalist. He was aware of the danger to informants when he did not black out their names in the published documents. “The right to freedom of expression does not give people like Mr. Assange unlimited discretion to decide the fate of others,” said the judge.
So there is no way Assange will be extradited?
With the recent ruling against an extradition, the final decision on Assange’s fate is likely to drag on, as appeal is possible and the case could ultimately go to the UK Supreme Court. It is also possible that the case will become a case for the European Court of Human Rights.
Assange’s release on bail will be decided this Wednesday in London. However, it remains to be seen whether his state of health is a sufficient argument for this. Assange had evaded Swedish extradition charges for rape allegations for years by escaping to the Ecuadorian embassy.