Posted February 13, 2021 1:18 am by

Biden administration files appeal pressing for Assange extradition

Supporters of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange protest against his possible extradition from Britain to the United States in Brussels in December © AFP / JOHN THYS

Washington, United States, Feb 12 – The administration of US President Joe Biden has appealed a British judge’s ruling against the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, a Justice Department official said Friday.

A brief filed late Thursday declared Washington’s desire to have Assange stand trial on espionage and hacking-related charges over WikiLeaks’ publication of hundreds of thousands of US military and diplomatic documents beginning in 2009.

The Justice Department had until Friday to register its stance on Judge Vanessa Baraitser’s January 4 ruling that Assange suffered mental health problems that would raise the risk of suicide if he were sent to the United States for trial.

“Yes, we filed an appeal and we are continuing to pursue extradition,” Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi told AFP.

After Baraitser’s decision, which did not question the legal grounds for the US extradition request, Donald Trump’s administration moved to appeal.

But Biden’s stance was not clear, and he was pressured by rights groups to drop the case, which raises sensitive transparency and media freedom issues.

After WikiLeaks began publishing US secrets in 2009, then-president Barack Obama, whose vice president was Biden, declined to pursue the case.

Assange said WikiLeaks was no different than other media constitutionally protected to publish such materials.

Prosecuting him, too, could mean also prosecuting powerful US news organizations for publishing similar material — legal fights the government would likely lose.

But under Trump, whose 2016 election was helped by WikiLeaks publishing Russian-stolen materials damaging to his rival Hillary Clinton — the Justice Department built a national security case against Assange.

In 2019 the native Australian was charged under the US Espionage Act and computer crimes laws with multiple counts of conspiring with and directing others, from 2009 to 2019, to illegally obtain and release US secrets.

In doing so he aided and abetted hacking, illegally exposed confidential US sources to danger and used the information to damage the United States, according to the charges.

If convicted on all counts, Assange, 49, could face a prison sentence of 175 years.

“Julian Assange is no journalist,” said Assistant Attorney General John Demers at the time.

– Suicide worry –

Assange has remained under detention by British authorities pending the appeal.

Earlier this week 24 organizations, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International USA and Reporters Without Borders, urged Biden Read More…