Judgement Day for Julian Assange as High Court set to rule on WikiLeaks Founder's extradition to US

20 May 2024, 08:39 | Updated: 20 May 2024, 09:16

The High Court is set to rule on the next stage of Julian Assange's legal battle over his extradition to the US
The High Court is set to rule on the next stage of Julian Assange's legal battle over his extradition to the US. Picture: Alamy

By Flaminia Luck

Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, is expected to find out today whether he can halt his extradition to the US where he could face trial for disclosing military secrets.

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The High Court will decide whether it is satisfied with assurances given by the US over his prosecution for disclosing hundreds of thousands of documents about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Judges want confirmation the Australian's rights will be protected - and that he won't face the death penalty.

Mr Assange is wanted on a series of espionage charges.

Julian Assange's wife believes her husband may still face the death penalty

Assange's wife previously told LBC's Andrew Marr she believes her husband "could be killed" in the United States, "either through the death penalty or by assassination" if his extradition were to go ahead.

Stella Assange said she believes her husband "could [also] be put in conditions that will drive him to take his own life" if he is extradited to the US.

Read More: Julian Assange begins last-ditch bid to fight extradition as lawyers say he faces ‘flagrant denial of justice’

Read More: What did Julian Assange do? Why WikiLeaks founder faces US extradition

In a former ruling, Dame Victoria Sharp and Mr Justice Johnson ordered the US to provide certain assurances, meaning Mr Assange will now not be immediately extradited.

Assange, 52, has been accused of an alleged conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information following the publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

Speaking with Andrew Marr, Mrs Assange labelled the current sentence "notoriously harsh".

Outcome Of Julian Assange's Appeal Against Extradition To The U.S.
Outcome Of Julian Assange's Appeal Against Extradition To The U.S. Picture: Getty

Who is Julian Assange?

Assange, 52, was born in Australia in 1971. He was one of several people who together established Wikileaks, a hacking collective, in 2006.

He had been a hacker since he was 16, and had already had brushes with the law in Australia, receiving a fine in 1995.

What is Wikileaks?

Wikileaks has released about ten million classified documents, including many about the US military's activities in the Middle East.Assange described Wikileaks as "a giant library of the world's most persecuted documents."

He told German publication Der Spiegel: "We give asylum to these documents, we analyse them, we promote them and we obtain more.

"Wikileaks published a video in 2010 that it said showing a US military helicopter shooting dead Iraqi civilians.

The group also published thousands of classified documents released by US military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.

The documents suggested that the US military had been involved in killing hundreds of Afghan civilians.

These deaths had not been made public.

Julian Assange with Reverend Jesse Jackson outside the Embassy of Ecuador in London
Julian Assange with Reverend Jesse Jackson outside the Embassy of Ecuador in London. Picture: Alamy

What were the legal consequences for Assange?

Assange was accused of facilitating "one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States".He was charged with 18 offences and accused of breaking into US military databases.

Assange said that the charges against him were politically motivated and that the documents show serious abuses.

The US began proceedings in 2019 to extradite Assange to the US so that he can face trial there.

The US said that his revelations had put lives at risk and that some people had "disappeared" after the publication of documents, although they could not prove that this was linked to Wikileaks.

Read more: 'No sign of life' at crash site of helicopter carrying Iranian President, state television reports

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