Nothing to do for Julian Assange: the Westminster Magistrates’ Court of London has issued theformal extradition order to the United States. At this point, the final green light for the extradition of the Wikileaks founder rests with the Minister of the Interior, Priti Patel. The act comes just over a month after the UK Supreme Court ruling which rejected the extradition appeal.
If he is extradited to the United States, Assange will face heavy charges of espionage for publishing thousands of confidential documents sent to the US State Department. 18 charges in total, 17 attributable to the law on espionage and 1 under the law on computer fraud and abuse; risks a maximum of 175 years of imprisonment.
The placet from the interior ministry is expected by 18 Maybut associations for the protection of human rights continue to express strong dissent towards a provision that harms both Assange as an individual and more generally the freedom of the press. On the first point he says Agnés CallamardSecretary of Amnesty International:
The US has clearly stated that it will change the conditions of detention of Assange when it deems it appropriate. This admission seriously risks causing Assange irreversible damage to her physical and psychological well-being.
While relative to the impact on the right to information and public opinion:
Assange’s extradition would have devastating consequences for freedom of the press and for public opinion, which has the right to know what governments are doing in his name. Spreading news of public interest is a cornerstone of press freedom. Extraditing Assange and exposing him to espionage charges for publishing confidential information would set a dangerous precedent and force journalists from all over the world to watch their backs.
Beyond Assange’s personal story, the interests at stake are therefore broader because, as Amnesty International continues, If London allows a foreign state to exercise its extraterritorial jurisdiction to try a person who has disseminated information from the UK, other governments could use the same judicial strategy to imprison journalists and gag the press beyond their state borders. It is recalled that the information disseminated by Wikileaks made it possible to document war crimes committed by US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.