Jekaterina Saveljeva

US provides assurances over extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

Extradition of the WikiLeaks founder moves a step closer after the US government gives diplomatic assurances over his treatment in the US. Assange supporters accuse the US of ‘weasel words’

The US has provided assurances requested by a UK court that could open the way for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to be extradited from Britain to face espionage and hacking charges in the US.

The High Court in London ruled in March that Assange would be allowed to appeal against extradition if the US government did not deliver diplomatic assurances over his rights under the US Constitution and his treatment in the country.

The 52-year-old faces 18 charges under the US Espionage Act and one charge under the US Computer Fraud and Abuse Act over WikiLeaks’ publication of US military documents and diplomatic cables leaked by US Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning.

The US government today met a court deadline to provide assurances that Assange would be able to rely on the First Amendment right to free speech and that he would face no additional charges that would lead to a death penalty being imposed.

However, Assange’s lawyers have questioned the value of the US assurances, which will now be considered at the High Court in a hearing on 20 May.

Stella Assange, wife of Julian Assange, said the assurances did not address concerns about his treatment in the US.

“[The US] makes no undertaking to withdraw the prosecution’s previous assertion that Julian has no First Amendment rights because he is not a US citizen,” she said. “Instead, the US has limited itself to blatant weasel words claiming that Julian can ‘seek to raise’ the First Amendment if extradited.” she added.

“The diplomatic note does nothing to relieve our family’s extreme distress about his future – his grim expectation of spending the rest of his life in isolation in a US prison for publishing award-winning journalism,” she said.

Last week, president Joe Biden raised a glimmer of hope that the extradition may not go ahead when he confirmed the US was considering a request by the Australian government to end Assange’s prosecution.

Assange’s prosecution under US espionage and computer hacking laws has led to warnings from major news outlets and campaign groups that his extradition would set a legal precedent that would have a chilling effect on the work of journalists.

The press freedom campaign RSF International posted on X: “No matter what assurances the US has provided in the final stages of extradition proceedings against Julian Assange, the grounds of his appeal deserve proper consideration by the UK High Court.” 

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