The 50-year-old Australian is wanted in the U.S. to face trial on 18 charges including breaking an espionage law, after WikiLeaks published thousands of secret files and diplomatic cables in 2010.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange addresses the media from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2016.Jack Taylor / AFP – Getty ImagesDec. 10, 2021, 11:37 AM CET / Updated Dec. 10, 2021, 12:28 PM CETBy Chantal Da Silva and Reuters
The U.S. has won an appeal in London’s High Court to see WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange extradited to face criminal charges, including allegations he broke a spy law and conspired to hack into government computers.
“The court allows the appeal,” Judge Timothy Holroyde said in a decision on Friday.
Assange, 50, is been wanted in the U.S. to face trial on 18 charges, including breaking espionage laws after WikiLeaks published thousands of secret U.S. files in 2010.
The WikiLeaks founder, who is currently being held at Belmarsh prison in London, has denied any wrongdoing. He was not present for the hearing.
The development comes after U.S. authorities brought a High Court challenge against a ruling made in January by then-district judge Vanessa Baraitser, who said that Assange should not be extradited to the U.S. due to concerns over his mental health and a risk of suicide.
Assange’s lawyers told the court that even though the U.S. had assured reasonable treatment if the WikiLeaks founder was extradited, there was still a risk that he could take his own life.
Assange’s lawyers urged the court to ignore assurances from the U.S. that their client would not be subject to harsh detention conditions, known as Special Administrative Measures.
Even if he was not subjected to such conditions, Assange’s lawyers said evidence heard during the original extradition hearing suggested he would be detained in “conditions of extreme isolation” that could impact his mental health.
Responding to the High Court decision, Stella Moris, Mr Assange’s fiancée, said: “We will appeal this decision at the earliest possible moment,” according to Sky News, which is owned by NBC News’ parent company Comcast.
Moris described the High Court’s ruling as “dangerous and misguided” and a “grave miscarriage of justice.”
WikiLeaks burst onto the international scene with the release of footage from a 2007 airstrike in Baghdad that resulted in the deaths of, among several others, two Reuters journalists. The video, which WikiLeaks released under the title “Collateral Murder,” helped feed a growing sense of unease among Americans about the protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and secret practices of the military.
It gained more attention in 2010 after it published scores of confidential U.S. records, which the U.S. has said put lives at risk.
Sweden had previously sought Assange’s extradition from the U.K. over alleged sex crimes.
He was expected to be sent to Sweden in 2012, but fled to the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he spent seven years before being forced out in April 2019 and jailed for breaching British bail conditions.
By that point, the Swedish case against him had already been dropped, but U.S. authorities demanded his extradition.