The United States tries again to obtain the extradition of Julian Assange

After a first failure, the United States returned to the charge Wednesday before the British justice to obtain the extradition of the founder of WikiLeaks Julian Assange, which they are pursuing for a massive leak of documents.

After seven years in seclusion at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and two and a half years in Belmarsh high security prison, the 50-year-old Australian, seen by his supporters as a victim of attacks on freedom of expression , took a major step towards freedom last January.

British judge Vanessa Baraitser then rejected the American request for extradition because of the risk of suicide of Julian Assange, who faces 175 years in prison in the United States.

But Washington was able to appeal this decision, calling into question in particular the reliability of an expert who had testified in its favor.

The psychiatrist, Michael Kopelman, had indeed admitted to having deceived justice by “concealing” the fact that his client had become a father while he was confined to the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

This appeal, which is to take place over two days at the High Court, is one of the last recourse for Washington, which, in the event of a new defeat, would only have the possibility of appealing to the British Supreme Court, without being insured. may it be granted to him.

In the event of victory, that would not be the end of the case, which would then be referred to a court to rule on the merits.

– “Ailing” –

Julian Assange, supported by a number of press freedom organizations, is being prosecuted for having disseminated, as of 2010, more than 700,000 classified documents on American military and diplomatic activities, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Julian Assange (AFP – Manel MENGUELTI)

He was arrested by British police in April 2019 after spending seven years in seclusion at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he had taken refuge while on bail. He feared extradition to the United States or Sweden, where he faced rape charges that have since been dropped.

According to his companion Stella Moris, who visited him in prison on Saturday, Julian Assange is “in very bad shape”. “Julian would not survive extradition, that’s the judge’s conclusion” in January, she said on Monday.

“Julian wants to be able to return to Australia and see his family, his mother whom he has not seen for eight years”, she explained, while acknowledging that it would be difficult because “Australia has nothing made to ensure its safety “.

For WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson, it would be “unthinkable” for the High Court in London to come to any conclusion other than confirmation “of the refusal to hand Assange over to Washington.

– “Permanent threat” –

On Saturday, hundreds of demonstrators – carrying signs “Don’t extradite Assange”, “Journalism is not a crime” or “10 years is enough, free Assange now!” – gathered in front of the High Court of London, alongside Stella Moris, to demand her release.

Demonstration in favor of Julian Assange in London, August 11, 2021 (AFP / Archives - JUSTIN TALLIS)
Demonstration in favor of Julian Assange in London, August 11, 2021 (AFP / Archives – JUSTIN TALLIS)

Several organizations for the defense of human rights and press freedom – including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders -, “deeply concerned”, asked in an open letter in mid-October to the American Attorney General to abandon his lawsuits.

Julian Assange is under prosecution under President Donald Trump. Under his predecessor Barack Obama, who had Joe Biden for vice-president, American justice had given up on prosecuting the founder of WikiLeaks.

But the election of Joe Biden to the White House did not bring the inflection hoped for by the supporters of Julian Assange.

Reporters Without Borders director of international campaigns, Rebecca Vincent, said the Democratic president had missed the opportunity to “distance himself from his predecessors”.

“The United States seems determined to continue on this path but it is not inevitable,” she told reporters. “It must stop.”


Source: Challenges en temps réel : accueil by www.challenges.fr.

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