The United States on Friday won an appeal in London’s High Court to have WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange extradited to the US to face espionage charges.
A British appellate court opened the door for Assange, 50, to be extradited after overturning a lower court ruling that his mental health was too fragile to withstand the US criminal justice system.
The lower court judge had refused a US request in January to extradite Assange to face charges over WikiLeaks’ publication of secret military documents a decade ago, saying he was likely to kill himself if held under harsh prison conditions.
In its appeal, the US government argued Assange had “no history of serious and enduring mental illness.”
US authorities told the British judges that Assange could serve any US prison sentence he would be given in his native Australia — if they agreed to extradite him.
American prosecutors have indicted Assange on 17 charges, including breaking a spying law and conspiring to hack government computers.
Assange’s lawyers have long argued he was acting as a journalist and is entitled to First Amendment protections of freedom of speech for publishing leaked documents that exposed US military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The charges bring up to 175 years in prison, but US lawyers have argued “the longest sentence ever imposed for this offense is 63 months.”
Assange is currently being held at London’s high-security Belmarsh Prison.
He was arrested in April 2019 he was hauled out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London after his political asylum was revoked.
His lawyers are likely to appeal the London High Court’s latest ruling.
With Post wires