On June 17, 2022, UK Home Secretary Priti Patel ordered that WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange be extradited to the US. Assange is wanted by the US government for charges that include 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act for publishing truthful information about the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and the State Department. Defending Rights & Dissent previously wrote to Patel outlining why Assange should not be extradited. Defending Rights & Dissent Policy Director Chip Gibbons had this to say:
“We are appalled by today’s decision. Julian Assange’s extradition not only places the Australian journalist at risk for further, continuous severe human rights deprivations, but jeopardizes press freedom globally. The ‘crime’ for which Assange is wanted is basic journalism. With this extraterritorial assertion of the Espionage Act, the US has claimed for itself the right to seize and throw in jail anyone anywhere in the world who publishes information it does not like. It’s an extraordinary claim and one the UK Home Secretary apparently has no problem with.
The Obama Administration, in spite of immense pressure from the CIA and the FBI, declined to prosecute Assange citing the fact that doing so would open the door to prosecuting The New York Times. The Trump Administration reversed course. The Biden Administration can still, with the stroke of a pen, end this dangerous prosecution before it kills the First Amendment.”
Assange has additional legal avenues for appealing the extradition order. While a district judge initially ruled that Assange’s extradition to the US would be oppressive, she also ruled against Assange’s press freedom arguments. The defense can now file a cross appeal on those issues where the original judge initially ruled against him. They have 14 days to ask for permission from a high court to do so. Additionally, Assange can appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, the international legal body of the Council of Europe. The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights had argued the UK should not extradite Assange to the US.