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Julian Assange’s US extradition hearing wraps up in London, judges to take time to reach verdict

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s listening to on the British Excessive Courtroom in London for his doable closing enchantment difficult his extradition to the U.S. concluded on Wednesday. The courtroom will not be anticipated to decide on the Australian writer’s destiny till not less than subsequent month.

The 2-day enchantment listening to earlier than a panel of two judges wrapped up after U.S. attorneys delivered arguments, as they search to have Assange, 52, despatched to the U.S. to face espionage costs for publishing labeled U.S. navy paperwork 14 years in the past.

Lawyer Clair Dobbin, representing the U.S. authorities, claimed the case relies on “legislation, on proof” and “not political inspiration,” pushing again on accusations that Assange’s prosecution is politically motivated.

“Julian is a political prisoner, and he must be launched,” Assange’s spouse, Stella, stated in a speech exterior the courtroom.

UK HIGH COURT HEARS ARGUMENTS IN ASSANGE’S US EXTRADITION CASE WITHOUT HIM PRESENT DUE TO HEALTH REASONS

Stella Assange

Stella Assange, spouse of Julian Assange, speaks apart from a poster of Julian Assange on the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024. (AP)

The judges overseeing the case, Victoria Sharp and Jeremy Johnson, stated Wednesday they’d take time to return to a verdict, and a ruling on Assange’s destiny will not be anticipated till March on the earliest.

Whereas the listening to may very well be Assange’s closing enchantment trying to dam his extradition to the U.S., a full enchantment listening to might come sooner or later if he wins in courtroom this week. If he loses this enchantment, Assange’s solely remaining possibility could be on the European Courtroom of Human Rights, however his supporters worry he may very well be flown to the U.S. earlier than that occurs as a result of the British authorities has already signed an extradition order.

Dobbin purported that Assange put harmless lives in danger and went past journalism in his efforts to acquire and publish labeled U.S. authorities paperwork. She claims Assange inspired and helped U.S. Military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal diplomatic cables and navy information that WikiLeaks printed, and that doing so jeopardized lives.

However there isn’t a proof that WikiLeaks put anybody at risk by publishing the paperwork. It’s also a standard apply amongst journalists to ask a supply to supply extra materials.

Dobbin claimed that Assange broken U.S. safety and intelligence providers and “created a grave and imminent threat” by publishing tons of of hundreds of paperwork. She stated these dangers might hurt and result in the arbitrary detention of harmless folks, together with many who lived in warfare zones or beneath repressive regimes.

She stated Assange encouraging Manning and others to hack into authorities computer systems and steal materials meant that the WikiLeaks founder was “going a really appreciable manner past” a journalist gathering data.

Assange was “not somebody who has simply arrange a web-based field to which individuals can present labeled data,” she stated. “The allegations are that he sought to encourage theft and hacking that will profit WikiLeaks.”

Attorneys for Assange argued throughout day one of many listening to on Tuesday that U.S. authorities are searching for to punish him for WikiLeaks’ “publicity of criminality on the a part of the U.S. authorities on an unprecedented scale,” together with torture and killings.

If he’s extradited to the U.S., lawyer Edward Fitzgerald warned, there may be “an actual threat he might undergo a flagrant denial of justice.”

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT URGES UK TO RELEASE ASSANGE AS POSSIBLE FINAL APPEAL CHALLENGING US EXTRADITION BEGINS

A protester holds a placard outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London

Julian Assange’s attorneys are on their closing U.Ok. authorized problem to cease the WikiLeaks founder from being despatched to the U.S. to face spying costs. (AP)

Dobbin stated the First Modification doesn’t grant immunity to journalists who break the legislation and that media shops that went by way of the method of redacting the paperwork earlier than publishing them usually are not being prosecuted.

Journalists situated exterior of England and Wales, together with from Fox Information Digital, had been denied entry to watch the listening to remotely. Journalists who had been permitted entry, both remotely or in individual, had hassle at instances listening to attorneys throughout Wednesday’s arguments.

Ought to he be extradited to the U.S. after exhausting all his authorized appeals, Assange would face trial in Alexandria, Virginia, and may very well be sentenced to as much as 175 years in an American maximum-security jail. His supporters have lengthy argued that he wouldn’t obtain a good trial if he’s extradited.

“We have basically heard nothing new from the U.S. authorities’s authorized illustration on this listening to,” worldwide nonprofit Reporters With out Borders stated in an announcement Wednesday. “Somewhat than addressing the compelling new arguments made by Assange’s defence, they’ve doubled down on their longstanding claims that Assange’s actions don’t qualify as journalistic exercise and that he shall be given a good trial within the U.S.”

“The information of the matter stay: the publication by WikiLeaks in 2010 of the leaked labeled paperwork uncovered data that was within the public curiosity and knowledgeable journalism around the globe,” the assertion continued. “The prosecutor and different US officers have said that as a international nationwide, Assange won’t be afforded First Modification protections. Mixed with the truth that the Espionage Act has no public curiosity defence, meaning he can’t get a good trial.”

Assange was absent from courtroom on Tuesday and Wednesday due to well being points. His household has raised issues about his bodily and psychological well being, with Stella Assange telling reporters that her husband’s life is in danger on daily basis he stays in jail and that she believes he’ll die if he is extradited to the U.S.

Earlier this month, U.N. Particular Rapporteur on Torture, Alice Jill Edwards, known as on the U.Ok. authorities to halt the doable extradition of Assange over issues that he could be susceptible to remedy amounting to torture or different types of ill-treatment or punishment.

BIPARTISAN CONGRESSIONAL RESOLUTION CALLS ON US OFFICIALS TO DROP CHARGES AGAINST ASSANGE

Final month, a bunch of Australian lawmakers wrote a letter to U.Ok. Residence Secretary James Cleverly demanding Assange’s U.S. extradition be halted over issues about his security and well-being, urging the U.Ok. authorities to as an alternative make an impartial evaluation of Assange’s threat of persecution.

Assange is going through 17 costs for allegedly receiving, possessing and speaking labeled data to the general public beneath the Espionage Act, and one cost alleging a conspiracy to commit laptop intrusion.

The costs had been introduced by the Trump administration’s Justice Division over WikiLeaks’ 2010 publication of cables leaked by Manning detailing warfare crimes dedicated by the U.S. authorities in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, detention camp. The supplies additionally uncovered situations of the CIA participating in torture and rendition.

WikiLeaks’ “Collateral Homicide” video exhibiting the U.S. navy gunning down civilians in Iraq, together with two Reuters journalists, was additionally printed 14 years in the past.

Assange has been held at London’s high-security Belmarsh Jail since he was faraway from the Ecuadorian Embassy on April 11, 2019, for breaching bail situations. He had sought asylum on the embassy since 2012 to keep away from being despatched to Sweden over allegations he raped two ladies as a result of Sweden wouldn’t present assurances it could shield him from extradition to the U.S. The investigations into the sexual assault allegations had been ultimately dropped.

AUSTRALIAN MPS PEN LETTER URGING UK GOVERNMENT TO STOP JULIAN ASSANGE’S US EXTRADITION, CITING HEALTH CONCERNS

Assange supporter holds a sign

A protester holds a poster on the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024. (AP)

A U.Ok. District Decide rejected the U.S. extradition request in 2021 on the grounds that Assange was more likely to kill himself if he was held beneath harsh U.S. jail situations. Increased courts later overturned that call after receiving assurances from the U.S. about his remedy, and the British authorities signed an extradition order in June 2022.

Considered one of Assange’s attorneys, Mark Summers, stated Tuesday there was proof exhibiting that there had been a plan to kidnap or homicide Assange whereas he was within the Ecuadorean Embassy and former President Trump had requested “detailed choices” to kill him.

“Senior CIA officers requested plans, the president himself requested on being supplied with choices on do it and sketches had been even drawn up,” Summers stated.

The CIA beneath the Trump administration allegedly had plans to kill Assange over the publication of delicate company hacking instruments generally known as “Vault 7,” which had been leaked to WikiLeaks, Yahoo reported in 2021. The company stated the leak represented “the most important knowledge loss in CIA historical past.”

The company was accused of getting discussions “on the highest ranges” of the administration about plans to assassinate Assange in London and allegedly adopted orders from then-CIA director Mike Pompeo to attract up kill “sketches” and “choices.” The CIA additionally had superior plans to kidnap and rendition Assange, and had made a political determination to cost him, in keeping with the Yahoo report.

Whereas he was within the embassy, the CIA was uncovered for spying on Assange and his attorneys. A decide not too long ago dominated {that a} lawsuit introduced towards the CIA for spying on his guests can transfer ahead.

“They’re placing Julian into the arms of the nation and of the individuals who plotted his assassination,” Stella Assange stated.

The Obama administration in 2013 determined to not indict Assange over WikiLeaks’ 2010 publication of labeled cables as a result of it could have needed to additionally indict journalists from main information shops who printed the identical supplies, which has been described as “The New York Instances downside.” Former President Obama additionally commuted Manning’s 35-year sentence for violations of the Espionage Act and different offenses to seven years in January 2017, and Manning, who had been imprisoned since 2010, was launched later that yr.

However the Justice Division beneath former President Trump later moved to indict Assange beneath the Espionage Act, and the Biden administration has continued to pursue his prosecution.

UK HIGH COURT SETS DATE FOR JULIAN ASSANGE’S FINAL APPEAL CHALLENGING US EXTRADITION

Assange supporters hold signs outside the High Court in London

Assange has been combating extradition for greater than a decade, together with seven years in self-exile within the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and the final 5 years in a high-security jail. (AP)

No writer had been charged beneath the Espionage Act till Assange, and plenty of press freedom teams have stated his prosecution units a harmful precedent supposed to criminalize journalism.

In 2022, the editors and publishers of U.S. and European shops that labored with Assange on the publication of excerpts from the greater than 250,000 paperwork he obtained within the Cablegate leak – The Guardian, The New York Instances, Le Monde, Der Spiegel and El País – wrote an open letter calling for the U.S. to drop the costs towards Assange.

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An editor for The Guardian additionally printed an editorial on Sunday saying that the outlet opposes Assange’s U.S. extradition as a result of doing so could be a risk to each the WikiLeaks founder and journalism. 

There have additionally been a number of efforts made by lawmakers within the U.S. and Australia within the final yr to demand Assange’s freedom, together with a vote final week during which the Australian Parliament overwhelmingly supported calling on the U.S. and U.Ok. Governments to finish Assange’s prosecution and a decision launched final month within the U.S. Home calling for him to be launched.

The Related Press contributed to this report.

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