UK court says Assange can’t be extradited on espionage charges until US rules out death penalty

LONDON (TIP): A British court ruled March 26 that Julian Assange can’t be extradited to the United States on espionage charges unless U.S. authorities guarantee he won’t get the death penalty, giving the WikiLeaks founder a partial victory in his long legal battle over the site’s publication of classified American documents.
Two High Court judges said they would grant Assange a new appeal unless U.S. authorities give further assurances within three weeks about what will happen to him. The ruling means the legal saga, which has dragged on for more than a decade, will continue — and Assange will remain inside London’s high-security Belmarsh Prison, where he has spent the last five years.
Judges Victoria Sharp and Jeremy Johnson said the U.S. must guarantee that Assange, who is Australian, “is afforded the same First Amendment protections as a United States citizen, and that the death penalty is not imposed.”
The judges said that if the U.S. files new assurances, “we will give the parties an opportunity to make further submissions before we make a final decision on the application for leave to appeal.” The judges said a hearing will be held May 20 if the U.S. makes those submissions.The U.S. Justice Department declined to comment Tuesday.
Demonstrators hold placards after Stella Assange, wife of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, released a statement outside the Royal Courts of Justice, in London, Tuesday, March 26, 2024.
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Assange’s supporters say he is a journalist protected by the First Amendment who exposed U.S. military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan that was in the public interest.
Assange’s wife Stella Assange said the WikiLeaks founder “is being persecuted because he exposed the true cost of war in human lives.”
“The Biden administration should not issue assurances. They should drop this shameful case, which should never have been brought,” she said outside the High Court in London.
The ruling follows a two-day hearing in the High Court in February, where Assange’s lawyer Edward Fitzgerald said American authorities were seeking to punish him for WikiLeaks’ “exposure of criminality on the part of the U.S. government on an unprecedented scale,” including torture and killings.
The U.S. government said Assange’s actions went beyond journalism by soliciting, stealing and indiscriminately publishing classified government documents that endangered many people, including Iraqis and Afghans who had helped U.S. forces. (AP)

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