Refusal to Extradite Julian Assange to US, Quashed by UK Hight Court
Britain’s High Court on Friday overturned a lower court’s refusal to extradite Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to the United States. The United States had appealed that refusal, and the High Court has now “authorized” that appeal.
The decision is a severe setback for Assange, but extradition is therefore not immediate. The legal procedure in Great Britain around the 50-year-old Australian returns to square one.
At the beginning of this year, Judge Vanessa Baraitser had spoken out against the extradition of Assange. However, his mental health would not allow him to be extradited to the United States: Baraitser pointed out a real risk of Assange attempting suicide.
However, the High Court judges believe the Americans’ clarifications about Assange’s possible incarceration in the United States are sufficient to resolve concerns about Assange’s health. Baraitser’s decision was based on the risk that Assange would be locked up in a maximum-security prison under particularly harsh conditions, the judges of the High Court said.
During the hearing of the case before the High Court at the end of October, lawyers for the American state indicated that Assange will not end up in a maximum-security prison and that he can also serve his possible prison sentence in Australia.
However, this decision does not mean that Assange will indeed be extradited to the United States any time soon. It is now again up to a lower British court to rule on Assange’s fate.
Even if the High Court had upheld the decision early this year, Assange was not yet certain that extradition had been averted. In that case, Washington could appeal to the Supreme Court. The supporters of the Wikileaks founder had already indicated in advance that they would go to the Supreme Court in the event of a loss.
Assange remains incarcerated pending the continuation of the legal battle. Assange is accused of espionage and spreading state secrets. There are a lot of charges against him, and he faces a total of up to 175 years in prison.
The Australian has been trying to stay out of the hands of the Americans for years. For that reason, he fled to the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012, where he eventually lived for seven years. In 2019, Assange was evicted from the property and subsequently sentenced to prison for violating the terms of his bail. The 50-year-old Australian has been incarcerated ever since.