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The US government has won its High Court bid to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

Assange, 50, is wanted in America over an alleged conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defense information following WikiLeaks’s publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

A US grand jury indicted him on 18 charges last year – 17 of which fall under the Espionage Act.

Assange’s lawyers claim he faces up to 175 years in jail if convicted, while adding that he would be sentenced to a hell-hole US supermax prison. 

In January, British district judge Vanessa Baraitser that Assange should not be sent to the US, in which she cited a real and ‘oppressive’ risk of suicide. 

However, the US government appealed the ruling, insisting it had given diplomatic assurances that Assange would not face those strictest measures either pre-trial or post-conviction. It also suggested that Assange’s sentence will probably be between four and six years. 

After a two-day hearing in October, the Judge Lord Burnett, sitting with Judge Lord Justice Holroyde, ruled in favor of the US on Friday.

The case will now be sent to British Home Secretary Priti Patel who will make the final decision on Assange’s extradition, though he is expected to appeal today’s ruling. His father Richard has previously said that they would take the legal battle all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary. 

Assange was supported at court today by his fiancée Stella Morris, 38, the lawyer who he secretly fathered two children with while she helped fight against his extradition.

Speaking afterwards, she said: ‘We will appeal this decision at the earliest possible moment. How can it be fair, how can it be right, how can it be possible, to extradite Julian to the very country which plotted to kill him?’ 

Julian Assange, 50, is wanted in America over an alleged conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defense information

Julian Assange, 50, is wanted in America over an alleged conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defense information

Julian Assange, 50, is wanted in America over an alleged conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defense information

Supporters of Assange join his partner Stella Morris, 38, outside the High Court following the ruling

Supporters of Assange join his partner Stella Morris, 38, outside the High Court following the ruling

Supporters of Assange join his partner Stella Morris, 38, outside the High Court following the ruling

Stella Morris, partner of Julian Assange, speaks to journalists in front of the High Court after the ruling

Stella Morris, partner of Julian Assange, speaks to journalists in front of the High Court after the ruling

Stella Morris, partner of Julian Assange, speaks to journalists in front of the High Court after the ruling

She added: ‘I want to emphasize that the High Court accepted all the medical evidence and the conclusions of the magistrate that if Julian is extradited and placed under extreme conditions of isolation it will drive him to take his own life, that extradition is oppressive.

‘They incorporate the possibility of breaking those assurances in their very wording. 

‘Today, it’s been almost a year since I stood outside court with our victory of the blocking of the extradition.

‘To have the foremost publisher, journalist, of the past 50 years in a UK prison, accused of publishing the truth about war crimes, about CIA kill teams.

Morris, flanked by Assange supporters outside court, added: ‘In fact every time we have hearings, we know more about the abusive nature, the criminal nature, of this case.

‘This goes to the fundamentals of press freedom and democracy.

‘We will fight. Every generation has an epic fight to fight and this is ours, because Julian represents the fundamentals of what it means to live in a free society, of what it means to have press freedom, of what it means for journalists to do their jobs without being afraid of spending the rest of their lives in prison.

‘Julian represents all our liberties and all our rights.’

South African-born lawyer Morris fell in love with the controversial WikiLeaks founder five years ago while visiting him to work on a legal bid to halt the extraditions. The couple have been engaged since 2017.

Morris and Julian had two children Gabriel, three, and Max, one, while he was holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, keeping their relationship and family a secret from the outside world until last September. 

An emotional Morris said outside court: 'We will appeal this decision at the earliest possible moment. How can it be fair, how can it be right, how can it be possible, to extradite Julian to the very country which plotted to kill him?'

An emotional Morris said outside court: 'We will appeal this decision at the earliest possible moment. How can it be fair, how can it be right, how can it be possible, to extradite Julian to the very country which plotted to kill him?'

An emotional Morris said outside court: ‘We will appeal this decision at the earliest possible moment. How can it be fair, how can it be right, how can it be possible, to extradite Julian to the very country which plotted to kill him?’

Stella Morris, partner of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, arrives at the Royal Courts of Justice following the appeal against Assange's extradition in London

Stella Morris, partner of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, arrives at the Royal Courts of Justice following the appeal against Assange's extradition in London

Stella Morris, partner of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, arrives at the Royal Courts of Justice following the appeal against Assange’s extradition in London

The senior judges found that the previous judge had based her decision on the risk of Assange being held in highly restrictive prison conditions if extradited.

However, the US authorities later gave assurances that Assange would not face those strictest measures either pre-trial or post-conviction unless he committed an act in the future that required them.

Lord Burnett said: ‘That risk is in our judgment excluded by the assurances which are offered. It follows that we are satisfied that, if the assurances had been before the judge, she would have answered the relevant question differently.’

Julian Assange will NOT be held in a supermax jail if he’s extradited, US assures UK – so where will he be held? 

If Assange is extradited to the US he has now been assured that he will not got to a SuperMax jail such as ADX Florence in Colorado where Abu Hamza and other terrorists are held in solitary confinement after being brought there from the UK.

One likely destination is Allenwood prison in Pennsylvania, a federal jail used by the US before to house extradited prisoners.

These included Orpington’s Christopher Tappin, 65, who pleaded guilty to selling missile batteries in a Texas court after a two year extradition battle in 2013.

Allenwood also holds a number of hackers, including Andrew Auernheimer, better known by his pseudonym weev, who became a well known cyber criminal and Internet troll who exposed flaws in the systems of big businesses and published data about government officials – crimes similar to the ones Assange is accused of.

It also holds a number of notorious murderers including James Eagan Holmes, an American mass murderer responsible for the 2012 Aurora, Colorado shooting in which he killed 12 people and injured 70 others.

American officials have told the High Court in London that Assange could apply for a transfer to a jail in his native Australia, but his lawyers believe this could take up to ten years.

He could be sent to the country’s highest security prison, the Goulburn Correctional Centre in New South Wales, around two hours south-west of Sydney. It has the nickname ‘Hell’.

The male-only prison holds Australia’s most dangerous murderers, robbers and terrorists including Matthew De Gruchy, who is serving 28 years for murdering his mother and two siblings.

It also holds Australia’s worst serial killer, Ivan Milat, who is serving seven life sentences in Goulburn’s Supermax, and has caused prison authorities the most headaches, making several escape attempts, swallowing metal objects and chopping off a finger with a plastic knife in order to get outside to a hospital from which he hoped to escape, and staging a hunger strike after the prisons commissioner confiscated the sandwich maker and television from his cell.

If Assange is sent to a low security jail it could be the Lotus Glen Correctional Centre is northern Queensland, close to his home town of Townsville.

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He added: ‘That conclusion is sufficient to determine this appeal in the USA’s favor.’

Lord Justice Holyrode said today: ‘For the reasons given in the judgement which is today handed down, the court allowed the appeal on the grounds that the district judge, having decided that the threshold for discharge under Section 9 of the Extradition Act 2003 was met, ought to have notified the USA of her provisional view, to afford it the opportunity to offer assurances to the court.  

‘The USA has now provided the United Kingdom with a package of assurances which respond to the DJ’s specific findings.’ 

The journalist’s friends watched the handing down of the decision and left the court in silence.  

In a statement following the High Court’s ruling, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson said: ‘Julian’s life is once more under grave threat, and so is the right of journalists to publish material that governments and corporations find inconvenient.

‘This is about the right of a free press to publish without being threatened by a bullying superpower.’

The High Court was previously told that blocking Assange’s removal due to his mental health risks ‘rewarding fugitives for their flight’.

The charges against Assange relate to the 2010 release by WikiLeaks of 500,000 secret files detailing aspects of military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq and secret cables about Guantanamo Bay.

This included the notorious ‘Collateral Murder’ video, which showed the July 2007 killing by an American Apache helicopter crew of eleven civilians, including Reuters journalists Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and Saeed Chmagh, 40.

The video, recorded by the helicopter gunsight, showed the helicopter crew firing into a group of Iraqi civilian men in New Baghdad after being given permission from a commanding officer, killing 11 men and seriously wounding two children.

British lawyer James Lewis, for the US, said the district judge based her decision on Assange’s ‘intellectual ability to circumvent suicide preventative measures’, which risked becoming a ‘trump card’ for anyone who wanted to oppose their extradition regardless of any resources the other state might have.  

Lewis said that the four ‘binding’ diplomatic assurances made were a ‘solemn matter’ and ‘are not dished out like smarties’.

These included that Assange would not be submitted to special administrative measures (SAMs) and detained at the ADX Florence Supermax jail if extradited and that the US would consent to Assange being transferred to Australia to serve any prison sentence he may be given.

The US authorities also argued Assange is well enough to be extradited, with Lewis telling the court his mental illness ‘does not even come close’ to being severe enough to prevent being sent overseas.

But lawyers representing Assange, who opposed the US’s bid to overturn the extradition block, had argued that the assurances over the WikiLeaks founder’s potential treatment were ‘meaningless’ and ‘vague’.  

British lawyer Edward Fitzgerald said the judge had produced a ‘carefully considered and fully reasoned judgment’, adding it was ‘clear’ she had ‘scrupulously applied the test for oppression in cases of mental disorder’.

Fitzgerald later said that assurances not to impose SAMs on Assange or hold him at the ADX Florence Supermax jail pre-trial or post-conviction do not remove the risk of ‘conditions of administrative isolation’. 

The court also heard that Assange had faced a ‘menacing, threatening and frightening’ situation while under surveillance when he lived at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Fitzgerald argued in written submissions that claims of ‘extreme measures of surveillance’, alongside subsequent ‘recent disclosures about CIA plans from the same period in time to seriously harm Julian Assange’, justified earlier concerns for the safety and privacy of Morris.

South African-born lawyer Stella Morris (right) and Assange (left) began dating in 2015 after she helped work on a legal bid to halt his extraditions

South African-born lawyer Stella Morris (right) and Assange (left) began dating in 2015 after she helped work on a legal bid to halt his extraditions

South African-born lawyer Stella Morris (right) and Assange (left) began dating in 2015 after she helped work on a legal bid to halt his extraditions

Gabriel, four, and his brother Max, two, were conceived while Assange was hiding out in the Ecuadorian embassy in London

Gabriel, four, and his brother Max, two, were conceived while Assange was hiding out in the Ecuadorian embassy in London

Gabriel, four, and his brother Max, two, were conceived while Assange was hiding out in the Ecuadorian embassy in London

Supporters of Julian Assange comfort each other, outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London

Supporters of Julian Assange comfort each other, outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London

Supporters of Julian Assange comfort each other, outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London

It is expected that Assange will attempt to bring an appeal over this latest decision

It is expected that Assange will attempt to bring an appeal over this latest decision

It is expected that Assange will attempt to bring an appeal over this latest decision

Assange has been held in Belmarsh Prison since 2019 after he was carried out of the Ecuadorian embassy by police before being arrested for breaching his bail conditions.

He had entered the building in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden to face sex offence allegations, which he has always denied and were eventually dropped. 

Lewis, for the US, previously told the Court of Appeal it should grant the extradition as the US government has given diplomatic assurances about Assange’s treatment that fundamentally alter the nature of the case.

He also criticized Professor Michael Kopelman for not revealing Assange was in a relationship with Morris when he first gave evidence about Assange’s mental state last year. 

The US argued that Professor Kopelman’s assessment should have been ‘excluded or given little weight’ because he allegedly knew of Assange’s two secret children when he made his first mental health assessment – but withheld the information.

The US prosecution team insisted he ‘misled’ Judge Baraitser who then relied on it in her judgment where in January not to extradite the WikiLeaks founder to face espionage charges.

In the judgement today, Lord Chief Justice Ian Burnett said: ‘With all respect to the judge, we cannot agree with her implicit finding that Professor Kopelman’s failings could be excused or overlooked merely because his conduct could be viewed as ‘an understandable human response’.

‘Many people mislead courts for reasons which might be understandable but that does not excuse the behavior and we it is incompatible with the obligations of an expert witness to do so.

‘Nor was it relevant to the judge’s assessment of his evidence that she had learned of Mr. Assange’s relationship with Ms. Morris before she read the medical evidence: it was no thanks to Professor Kopelman that she had done so.’

Timeline: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s long legal battle 

2006

Assange creates Wikileaks with a group of like-minded activists and IT experts to provide a secure way for whistleblowers to leak information. He quickly becomes its figurehead and a lightning rod for criticism.

2010

March: US authorities allege Assange engaged in a conspiracy to hack a classified US government computer with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning. 

July: Wikileaks starts releasing tens of thousands of top secrets documents, including a video of US helicopter pilots gunning down 12 civilians in Baghdad in 2007.  What followed was the release of more than 90,000 classified US military files from the Afghan war and 400,000 from Iraq that included the names of informants. 

August: Two Swedish women claim that they each had consensual sex with Assange in separate instances when he was on a 10-day trip to Stockholm. They allege the sex became non-consensual when Assange refused to wear a condom.

First woman claims Assange was staying at her apartment in Stockholm when he ripped off her clothes. She told police that when she realized Assange was trying to have unprotected sex with her, she demanded he use a condom. She claims he ripped the condom off before having sex.

Second Swedish woman claims she had sex with Assange at her apartment in Stockholm and made him wear a condom. She alleges that she later woke up to find Assange having unprotected sex with her.

He was questioned by police in Stockholm and denied the allegations. Assange was granted permission by Swedish authorities to fly back to the UK

November: A Swedish court ruled that the investigation should be reopened and Assange should be detained for questioning on suspicion of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion. An international arrest warrant is issued by Swedish police through Interpol.

Wikileaks releases its cache of more than 250,000 US diplomatic cables.  

December: Assange presents himself to London police and appears at an extradition hearing where he is remanded in custody. Assange is granted conditional bail at the High Court in London after his supporters pay £240,000 in cash and sureties.

2011

February: A British judge rules Assange should be extradited to Sweden but Wikileaks founder vows to fight the decision.

April:  A cache of classified US military documents is released by Wikileaks, including intelligence assessments on nearly all of the 779 people who are detained at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.

November: Assange loses High Court appeal against the decision to extradite him.

2012

June: Assange enters the Ecuadorian embassy in London requesting political asylum. 

August: Assange is granted political asylum by Ecuador.

2013

June: Assange tells a group of journalists he will not leave the embassy even if sex charges against him are dropped out of fear he will be extradited to the US.

2015

August: Swedish prosecutors drop investigation into some of the sex allegations against Assange due to time restrictions. The investigation into suspected rape remains active.

2016

July: Wikileaks begins leaking emails US Democratic Party officials favoring Hillary Clinton.

November: Assange is questioned over the sex allegation at the Ecuadorian Embassy in the presence of Sweden’s assistant prosecutor Ingrid Isgren and police inspector Cecilia Redell. The interview spans two days. 

2017

January: Barack Obama agrees to free whistleblower Chelsea Manning from prison. Her pending release prompts speculation Assange will end his self-imposed exile after Wikileaks tweeted he would agree to US extradition.

April: Lenin Moreno becomes the new president of Ecuador who was known to want to improve diplomatic relations between his country and the US. 

May: An investigation into a sex allegation against Assange is suddenly dropped by Swedish prosecutors. 

2018

January: Ecuador confirms it has granted citizenship to Assange following his request. 

February: Assange is visited by Pamela Anderson and Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel.

March: The Ecuadorian Embassy suspends Assange’s internet access because he wasn’t complying with a promise he made the previous year to ‘not send messages which entailed interference in relation to other states’.

August: US Senate committee asks to interview Assange as part of their investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election.

September: Assange steps down as editor of WikiLeaks.

October: Assange reveals he will launch legal action against the government of Ecuador, accusing it of violating his ‘fundamental rights and freedoms’.

November: US Justice Department inadvertently names Assange in a court document that says he has been charged in secret. 

2019

January: Assange’s lawyers say they are taking action to make President Trump’s administration reveal charges ‘secretly filed’ against him.

April 6: WikiLeaks tweets that a high level Ecuadorian source has told them Assange will be expelled from the embassy within ‘hours or days’. But a senior Ecuadorian official says no decision has been made to remove him from the London building. 

April 11: Assange has his diplomatic asylum revoked by Ecuador and he is arrested by the Metropolitan Police; he is remanded in custody by a judge at Westminster Magistrates Court.

April 12: He is found guilty of breaching his bail terms.

May 1: Assange is sentenced to 11 months in jail.

May 2: Court hearing takes place over Assange’s proposed extradition to the US. He tells a court he does not consent to the extradition and the case is adjourned until May 30.

May 13: Swedish prosecutors reopen rape case saying they still want to question Assange. 

June 3: Swedish court rules against detaining him in absentia, setting back the extradition case.

June 12 Home Secretary Sajid Javid signs an extradition request from the US.

June 13 A hearing sets out the date for Assange’s full extradition hearing – February next year.

November  Swedish prosecutors stop investigation into an allegation of rape against Assange. 

November 25 – Medics say without correct medical care Assange ‘could die’ in Belmarsh. 

December 13 –  Hearing in London hears he is being blocked from seeing key evidence in case. 

December 19 – Appears at Westminster Magistrates Court via video-link where his lawyer claims US bid to extradite him is ‘political’. 

2020   

February 24 –Assange faces an extradition hearing at Woolwich Crown Court.

Assange’s representatives argue he cannot legally be handed to the US for ‘political offences’ because of a 2003 extradition treaty.

March 2 – Assange appears by video link at Westminster Magistrates Court, where he is refused bail amid the coronavirus crisis.

April 11 – Stella Moris, Assange’s partner, who gave birth to his two children while he was living inside the Ecuadorian embassy, issues a plea for his release amid fears for his health.

June 24 – The US Department of Justice issues an updated 18-count indictment, over Assange’s alleged role in ‘one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States’.

August 25 – Morris visits her partner in Belmarsh prison for the first time in almost six months.

September 7 – Assange’s extradition hearings resume at the Old Bailey. They are expected to go on for up to four weeks.

October 1 – British High Court Judge Vanessa Baraitser adjourned the case at the Old Bailey until January 4. 

January 4 – Judge Baraitser strikes down US extradition bid. 

2021

October – British Justice Lord Burnett, sitting with Lord Justice Holroyde, hears two-day appeal from US. 

December 10 –  They rule in favor of the US and overturn decision not to extradite Assange. 

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Source: Daily Mail

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