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Extradition to the USA ?: Decision on the future of Assange

A court in London wants to decide today whether WikiLeaks founder Assange will be extradited to the USA. There he faces up to 175 years imprisonment. But it will probably not be delivered immediately.

By Thomas Spickhofen, ARD-Studio London

“Great Britain must resist,” cried Julian Assange when he was carried out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London on April 11, 2019 by several men. Assange was stuck here for almost seven years.

In the high-security wing for two years

The co-founder of WikiLeaks feared he would be extradited to the US and put on trial there if he left the embassy. The native Australian has now been sitting in the high-security section of a prison in London for almost two years.

Murder, rape, kidnapping, aggravated robbery: these are some of the crimes you can land here for. Assange is waiting to see what happens to the extradition request that the US has filed.

In America, Assange is accused of breaking into government computers and releasing classified documents. In the end, he could face a prison sentence of up to 175 years.

For lawyer it’s about the “future of journalism”

His lawyers say: Assange is a journalist who published secret documents that unearth the truth.

At the start of the hearings early last year, Jennifer Robinson, a member of the Assange legal team, said this was fundamentally about the future of journalism.

“We have always been warned that this can happen: that the US will bring charges over WikiLeaks’ publications,” said Robinson. “But we’re talking about award-winning publications that deal with human rights violations, war crimes and corruption. The threat of 175 years in prison affects not only Julian Assange, but journalists everywhere.”

The hearings were difficult. Assange complained that he did not have enough contact with his lawyers, a UN special envoy speaks of psychological torture, appointments had to be postponed due to the corona pandemic, and above all, the political explosiveness of the case shapes the view of the lawyers’ decision.

“It’s not a show trial”

Christian Mihr from Reporters Without Borders says: “It is not a show trial. That is important to me to clarify. The term is used sometimes. But it is clearly a political process. From the perspective of Reporters Without Borders, the circumstances are like that the British Government and the UK judiciary are conducting or have allowed this process, clearly politically.

Kristinn Hrafnsson, the managing director of WikiLeaks, was therefore not particularly optimistic about the outcome of the proceedings at the beginning of the hearings: “I expect justice, of course, but I have no great hope. If the case were only decided according to the law, then I would not have to worry, “said Hrafnsson. “But the case has become highly political, and the atmosphere in this country against Julian Assange is so poisoned that I’m worried. It’s not just about Julian, but about journalism as a whole.”

No matter which decision the London court announces: Assange will not have to expect an immediate extradition. Both sides could appeal in the event of failure, observers may expect a process that may last for years.

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