U.S. lawyers tell UK court to extradite Assange

October 27, 2021 - 19:6

TEHRAN - Lawyers for the U.S. launched a fresh attempt on Wednesday to have Julian Assange extradited from Britain, arguing that concerns around the WikiLeaks founder's mental health should not prevent him from facing U.S. justice.

On Wednesday, lawyers for the U.S. appealed against a British judge's decision to block the 50-year-old Australian’s extradition, arguing that concerns around his mental health should not prevent him from facing his charges.

In January, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser at London's Old Bailey ruled that Assange should not be extradited to the U.S., citing fears he could commit suicide, thus blocking his transfer to the U.S. where he would be prosecuted for publishing secret U.S. military documents.

At the start of a two-day hearing in London, the U.S. government asked Britain's High Court to overturn the ruling.

Lawyer James Lewis, acting for the U.S. government, told the Court of Appeal in London that a judge in a lower court had been wrong to rule that Assange could not be extradited because of a high risk he would commit suicide in a U.S. prison.

"We maintain that the district judge was wrong to come to the conclusion she did," said James Lewis.

The two senior judges sitting on the High Court will deliver their own ruling at a later date, but the issue will probably drag on for longer still.

A document outlining Lewis's arguments, presented to the court and released to media, said the U.S. had provided the UK with "a package of assurances" addressing the judge's concerns.

"The United States has also provided an assurance that the United States will consent to Mr. Assange being transferred to Australia to serve any custodial sentence imposed on him," the document said.

Assange, who denies any wrongdoing, is being held at Belmarsh Prison. He had been expected to appear via video link but the court was told he did not feel well enough to do so.

The hearing is the latest stage in a legal battle that has been raging since 2012.

Outside the court in central London, dozen demonstrators demanded his immediate release from London's high-security Belmarsh jail.
One protester dressed in black and a funereal veil held a banner, reading, "RIP British Justice," while another said Assange was an innocent defender of "press freedom".

"Extradition is a death sentence basically. If he's extradited to America the conditions will be so much worse," said one of the demonstrators.

Soon afterwards Sweden sought Assange's extradition from Britain over allegations of sex crimes. When he lost a case against extradition in 2012, he fled to the Ecuadorean embassy in London and stayed there before being finally dragged out in April 2019.

Assange was then jailed for breaching British bail conditions, although the Swedish case against him had been dropped, and the U.S. authorities sought his extradition.

On Jan. 4, a British judge rejected his argument that the case was political and an assault on freedom of speech, but said he should not be extradited because his mental health problems meant he would be at risk of suicide in a U.S. prison.

Washington accused Assange of 18 offenses during the administration of former president Barack Obama in connection with the release by WikiLeaks of the secret U.S. military records and diplomatic communication, which the government claimed put American lives at risk.

Many of those records unveiled covert efforts to take innocent lives or cover up atrocities by American military officers and their proxies overseas.

WikiLeaks first came to prominence when it published a U.S. military video in 2010 showing a 2007 attack by Apache helicopters in Baghdad that killed a dozen people, including two Iraqi reporters working for the UK-based Reuters news agency. It then released thousands more of U.S. classified files and diplomatic cables.

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