As A British Court Rules That Julian Assange, The Publisher Of Wikileaks, Could Be Extradited To The United States, Rights Organizations Warn That It Represents A Serious Danger To International Press Freedoms

A British court determined on Friday that Julian Assange, the creator and publisher of WikiLeaks, could be extradited to the United States to stand trial on the charges of breaching the Espionage Act, a verdict that rights organizations warn puts international press freedoms at grave risk. In reaction to the verdict, Rebecca Vincent, head of international campaigns at Reporters Without Borders, stated: “This is an utterly disgusting development that has worrying repercussions not just for Assange’s mental health, but also for journalism and press freedom throughout the globe.”

The judgment, which Assange’s lawyers are sure to challenge, reverses a January verdict by Judge Vanessa Baraitser of the Westminster Magistrates’ Court, who had ruled that extradition would put Assange’s life at risk. “We will file an appeal against this ruling as soon as possible. How can it be right, how can it be possible, to extradite Julian to the same country that plotted his assassination,” Assange’s fiancée, Stella Moris, declared in a recent statement.

Human rights organizations have pressed the Biden administration to withdraw the charges, which derive from Assange’s release of classified documents that showed US war crimes. The accusations were brought under the Espionage Act under the previous administration of Donald Trump, whose government apparently pondered assassinating or kidnapping Assange, who has been held in a high-security London jail since 2019. “Julian’s life is once again in jeopardy, as is journalists’ ability to disclose material that governments and companies find objectionable. This is about a free press’s freedom to publish without fear of being bullied by a superpower,” WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson stated on Friday.

The British court’s decision to extradite Assange had occurred on the concluding day of the US-initiated “Summit for Democracy,” an irony not missed by critics. In response to the verdict, Shadowproof’s founder Kevin Gosztola contends that “Biden’s administration cannot reasonably claim to support principles of democracy and human rights while simultaneously seeking the extradition of a publisher, Julian Assange, which is opposed by global press freedom organizations.” Reporters Without Borders executive director Christophe Deloire cautioned that the British court’s decision might “become historic for all the wrong reasons.”

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