Priti Patel signs an order to extradite Julian Assange to the US

Priti Patel signs an order to extradite Julian Assange to the US

Priti Patel signs an order to extradite Julian Assange to the US to face espionage charges

  • Westminster Magistrates’ Court issued formal order for Assange’s US extradition
  • Home Secretary has now rubber stamped WikiLeaks founder’s extradition 
  • WikiLeaks say they will appeal and say Priti Patel has done the wrong thing
  • Assange’s legal team also say there are other parts of appeal still to be heard 

Julian Assange took a step closer to being extradited to the United States today after Priti Patel signed an order agreeing to send him to Virginia to face espionage charges and potentially a 175-year jail sentence.

The Home Secretary has rubber stamped the order issued by Westminster Magistrates’ Court to fly the WikiLeaks founder to America for trial.

Assange, who is currently held in Belmarsh Prison in south-east London, has 14 days to appeal. 

WikiLeaks have already said they will back to court to keep him in Britain, claiming today is a ‘dark day for press freedom and British democracy’ and accusing Ms Patel of choosing not to ‘do the right thing’.

Julian Assange’s (pictured) extradition to the United States moved one step closer today after Priti Patel signed an order agreeing he could be sent to the US

Assange’s wife, Stella Moris, who married the imprisoned WikiLeaks founder in April, said: ‘Anyone in this country who cares about freedom of expression should be deeply ashamed that the Home Secretary has approved the extradition of Julian Assange to the United States, the country that plotted his assassination’

A Home Office spokesman said: ‘Under the Extradition Act 2003, the Secretary of State must sign an extradition order if there are no grounds to prohibit the order being made. Extradition requests are only sent to the Home Secretary once a judge decides it can proceed after considering various aspects of the case.

What routes are left for Julian Assange to fight against his extradition to the US? 

High Court appeal

Assange’s legal team have previously said there are other parts of his appeal that had not yet been heard by the High Court.

Last month Assange was denied permission to appeal his extradition to the US. He had asked the Supreme Court to allow him to challenge a December 2021 decision by the High Court, which ruled he could be extradited to America. 

 The Supreme Court, the UK’s highest court, denied his request to challenge the ruling as his application did not raise ‘an arguable point of law’.

However, responding to the judgment, Assange’s legal team said: ‘No appeal to the High Court has yet been filed by him in respect of the other important issues he raised previously in Westminster Magistrates’ Court.’

What do experts say? 

Commenting on the hearing, Thomas Garner, Extradition Partner at Fladgate, said: ‘Assange is notionally a step closer to extradition to the US, however there could still be additional traction in this case. Assange’s lawyers have already indicated that they intend to launch a further challenge at the High Court.

‘He may have another opportunity to avoid extradition as the line of challenge terminated by the Supreme Court ultimately followed a victory at first instance by Assange. In that decision, Assange won on a single point but lost on several others. 

‘The Magistrate’s decision to block his extradition was appealed by the US, but Assange did not himself make a cross appeal on the other matters. It is here that his team will focus their fire now. 

‘If the High Court were to refuse permission to appeal then he would reach the end of the line domestically, but if he succeeds in securing permission to appeal then his challenge could last for many months yet.’

‘On June 17, following consideration by both the Magistrates Court and High Court, the extradition of Mr Julian Assange to the US was ordered. Mr Assange retains the normal 14-day right to appeal.

‘In this case, the UK courts have not found that it would be oppressive, unjust or an abuse of process to extradite Mr Assange.

‘Nor have they found that extradition would be incompatible with his human rights, including his right to a fair trial and to freedom of expression, and that whilst in the US he will be treated appropriately, including in relation to his health.’

WikiLeaks say they will appeal.

Anyone in this country who cares about freedom of expression should be deeply ashamed that the Home Secretary has approved the extradition of Julian Assange to the United States, the country that plotted his assassination,’ the organisation said in a statement posted to Twitter.

‘Julian did nothing wrong. He has committed no crime and is not a criminal. He is a journalist and a publisher, and he is being punished for doing his job.

‘It was in Priti Patel’s power to do the right thing. Instead she will forever be remembered as an accomplice of the United States in its agenda to turn investigative journalism into a criminal enterprise.’

WikiLeaks said the decision is ‘not the end of the fight’ and it will launch an appeal via the High Court.

It said Mr Assange is facing a ‘political case’ in which there is an attempt to ‘disappear him into the darkest recesses of their prison system for the rest of his life to deter others from holding governments to account’.

‘We will not let that happen,’ the statement adds. ‘Julian’s freedom is coupled to all our freedoms. We will fight to return Julian to his family and to regain freedom of expression for us all.’

Assange’s supporters, including former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and members of Amnesty International, held a protest outside the court in the build up to the hearing in April.

Supporters held banners with slogans including ‘Free Assange’ and ‘Don’t Extradite Assange’. 

Assange’s wife, Stella Moris, who married the imprisoned WikiLeaks founder last month, was also at the hearing and sat in the public gallery.

Assange is wanted in America over an alleged conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information following WikiLeaks’ publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. He has always denied wrongdoing.

Assange has been held in Belmarsh prison for three years since being dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London. 

In March he was denied permission to appeal his extradition to the US. He asked the Supreme Court to allow him to challenge a December 2021 decision by the High Court, which ruled he could be extradited to America.

However, in March the Supreme Court confirmed it had rejected Assange’s appeal request.  

The Supreme Court, the UK’s highest court, denied his request to challenge the ruling as his application did not raise ‘an arguable point of law’. 

After the hearing, lawyers for Assange issued a statement and raised concerns about the reliance of the court on the US’s guarantee regarding the prison conditions Mr Assange would be kept in, should he be extradited.

Assange is wanted in America over an alleged conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information. 

If convicted in the US, Assange faces a possible penalty of up to 175 years in jail, his lawyers have said.

However the US government said the sentence was more likely to be between four and six years. 

It followed WikiLeaks’ publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

He says the information exposed abuses by the US military, but the US say the leaks of classified material endangered lives, and so the US sought his extradition from the UK.

US authorities brought a successful High Court challenge against a January ruling by then-district judge Vanessa Baraitser that Assange should not be sent to the US, in which she cited a real and ‘oppressive’ risk of suicide. 

Assange wed partner, Ms Moris, at Belmarsh prison last month.

Moris left the high security jail linked arm in arm with her father-in-law wearing a dress designed by Vivienne Westwood. 

Supporters held banners with slogans including ‘Free Assange’ and ‘Don’t Extradite Assange’ outside the court today

Assange’s supporters, including former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and members of Amnesty International, held a protest outside the court in the build up to the hearing

Stella Moris, 38, married 50-year-old Julian Assange (left) in Belmarsh Prison, south east London on March 23, just weeks before the third anniversary of his dramatic arrest when he was dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy in the capital in April 2019

Fighting back tears and wearing her wedding dress, she said: ‘I’m very happy but I’m very sad… I wish he were here… What we’re going through is inhuman.’

She added: ‘He’s the most amazing person in the world and he should be free.

‘But our love will carry us through.’.

Mr Assange married Ms Moris, 38, in front of four guests and two witnesses this afternoon. Two prison officers attended the ceremony, one of whom acted as official photographer. 

Assange and his new wife, Ms Moris announced their engagement in November last year.

The couple, who have two children together – Max, two, and Gabriel, four – were wed by registrar inside the prison shortly after midday.

Timeline: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s long legal battle 

2006

Assange creates Wikileaks with a group of like-minded activists and IT experts to provide a secure way for whistleblowers to leak information. He quickly becomes its figurehead and a lightning rod for criticism.

2010

March: U.S. authorities allege Assange engaged in a conspiracy to hack a classified U.S. government computer with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning. 

July: Wikileaks starts releasing tens of thousands of top secrets documents, including a video of U.S. helicopter pilots gunning down 12 civilians in Baghdad in 2007.  What followed was the release of more than 90,000 classified US military files from the Afghan war and 400,000 from Iraq that included the names of informants. 

August: Two Swedish women claim that they each had consensual sex with Assange in separate instances when he was on a 10-day trip to Stockholm. They allege the sex became non-consensual when Assange refused to wear a condom.

First woman claims Assange was staying at her apartment in Stockholm when he ripped off her clothes. She told police that when she realized Assange was trying to have unprotected sex with her, she demanded he use a condom. She claims he ripped the condom before having sex.

Second Swedish woman claims she had sex with Assange at her apartment in Stockholm and she made him wear a condom. She alleges that she later woke up to find Assange having unprotected sex with her.

He was questioned by police in Stockholm and denied the allegations. Assange was granted permission by Swedish authorities to fly back to the U.K.  

November: A Swedish court ruled that the investigation should be reopened and Assange should be detained for questioning on suspicion of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion. An international arrest warrant is issued by Swedish police through Interpol.

Wikileaks releases its cache of more than 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables.  

December: Assange presents himself to London police and appears at an extradition hearing where he is remanded in custody. Assange is granted conditional bail at the High Court in London after his supporters pay £240,000 in cash and sureties.

2011

February: A British judge rules Assange should be extradited to Sweden but Wikileaks found vows to fight the decision.

April:  A cache of classified U.S. military documents is released by Wikileaks, including intelligence assessments on nearly all of the 779 people who are detained at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.

November: Assange loses High Court appeal against the decision to extradite him.

2012

June: Assange enters the Ecuadorian embassy in London requesting political asylum. 

August: Assange is granted political asylum by Ecuador.

2013

June: Assange tells a group of journalists he will not leave the embassy even if sex charges against him are dropped out of fear he will be extradited to the U.S.

2015

August: Swedish prosecutors drop investigation into some of the sex allegations against Assange due to time restrictions. The investigation into suspected rape remains active.

2016

July: Wikileaks begins leaking emails U.S. Democratic Party officials favoring Hillary Clinton.

November: Assange is questioned over the sex allegation at the Ecuadorian Embassy in the presence of Sweden’s assistant prosecutor Ingrid Isgren and police inspector Cecilia Redell. The interview spans two days. 

2017

January: Barack Obama agrees to free whistleblower Chelsea Manning from prison. Her pending release prompts speculation Assange will end his self-imposed exile after Wikileaks tweeted he would agree to U.S. extradition.

April: Lenin Moreno becomes the new president of Ecuador who was known to want to improve diplomatic relations between his country and the U.S. 

May: An investigation into a sex allegation against Assange is suddenly dropped by Swedish prosecutors. 

2018

January: Ecuador confirms it has granted citizenship to Assange following his request. 

February: Assange is visited by Pamela Anderson and Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel.

March: The Ecuadorian Embassy suspends Assange’s internet access because he wasn’t complying with a promise he made the previous year to ‘not send messages which entailed interference in relation to other states’.

August: U.S. Senate committee asks to interview Assange as part of their investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election.

September: Assange steps down as editor of WikiLeaks.

October: Assange reveals he will launch legal action against the government of Ecuador, accusing it of violating his ‘fundamental rights and freedoms’.

November: U.S. Justice Department inadvertently names Assange in a court document that says he has been charged in secret. 

2019

January: Assange’s lawyers say they are taking action to make President Trump’s administration reveal charges ‘secretly filed’ against him.

April 6: WikiLeaks tweets that a high level Ecuadorian source has told them Assange will be expelled from the embassy within ‘hours or days’. But a senior Ecuadorian official says no decision has been made to remove him from the London building. 

April 11: Assange has his diplomatic asylum revoked by Ecuador and he is arrested by the Metropolitan Police; he is remanded in custody by a judge at Westminster Magistrates Court.

April 12: He is found guilty of breaching his bail terms.

May 1: Sentenced to 11 months in jail.

May 2: Court hearing takes place over Assange’s proposed extradition to the U.S. He tells a court he does not consent to the extradition and the case is adjourned until May 30.

May 13: Swedish prosecutors reopen rape case saying they still want to question Assange. 

June 3: Swedish court rules against detaining him in absentia, setting back the extradition case.

June 12 Home Secretary Sajid Javid signs an extradition request from the US.

June 13 A hearing sets out the date for Assange’s full extradition hearing – February next year.

November  Swedish prosecutors stop investigation into an allegation of rape against Mr Assange 

November 25 – Medics say without correct medical care Assange ‘could die’ in Belmarsh 

December 13 –  Hearing in London hears he is being blocked from seeing key evidence in case

December 19 – Appears at Westminster Magistrates Court via video-link where his lawyer claims US bid to extradite him is ‘political’. 

2020   

February 24 –Assange faces an extradition hearing at Woolwich Crown Court.

Assange’s representatives argue he cannot legally be handed to the US for ‘political offences’ because of a 2003 extradition treaty.

March 2 – Assange appears by video link at Westminster Magistrates Court, where he is refused bail amid the coronavirus crisis.

April 11 – Stella Moris, Assange’s partner, who gave birth to his two children while he was living inside the Ecuadorian embassy, issues a plea for his release amid fears for his health.

June 24 – The US Department of Justice issues an updated 18-count indictment, over Assange’s alleged role in ‘one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States’.

August 25 – Ms Moris visits her partner in Belmarsh prison for the first time in almost six months.

September 7 – Assange’s extradition hearings resume at the Old Bailey. They are expected to go on for up to four weeks.

October 1 – Judge Vanessa Baraitser adjourned the case at the Old Bailey until January 4. 

January 4 – Judge Baraitser strikes down US extradition bid. 

2021

October –  Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, sitting with Lord Justice Holroyde, hears two-day appeal from US. 

December 10 –  They rule in favour of the US and overturn decision not to extradite Assange. 

2022 

January – High Court gives Assange permission to ask the Supreme Court to consider his case. 

April – After years of legal toing and froing, Westminster Magistrates’ Court formally issued an order to extradite the WikiLeaks founder

June – Priti Patel signs an order to extradite Julian Assange to the US to face espionage charge

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