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UK's top court rules Assange can be extradited to US

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
In this file photo, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is seen on the balcony of the Embassy of Ecuador in London. (By AFP)

The British High Court has overturned a ruling that blocked the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Juian Assange to the United Sates, deciding that he can be sent to America, where he faces a possible life in prison sentence.

Washington accuses Assange of 18 counts relating to WikiLeaks' release of vast troves of confidential US military records, including classified military and diplomatic files in 2010 about US bombing campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq that proved highly embarrassing for Washington.

The US, which had challenged a decision made in January against his extradition, won the appeal at the High Court in London on Friday. Two appeal judges accepted Washington's assurances that Assange would not face the strictest measures before any trial or after conviction.

Such assurances were "solemn undertakings offered by one government to another," according to one of the judges, Timothy Holroyde.

He said Australian-born Assange would "receive appropriate clinical and psychological treatment" in the United States and Washington would agree to transfer him to Australia if he is convicted.

In January, the court blocked the extradition on the grounds that Assange would be at suicide risk if he were moved to the United States and held in isolation.

Assange's legal team opposed the latest ruling, saying they would appeal the decision. They argued that the assurance about Assange's treatment was "meaningless" and "vague."

Assange, who denies any wrongdoing, was not in court. He remains in London's high-security Belmarsh Prison, where he has been for more than two and a half years.

Russia denounced the ruling as "shameful" on Friday.

"This shameful verdict in this political case against a journalist and public figure is another manifestation of the cannibalistic worldview of the Anglo-Saxon tandem," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova wrote on a social media channel.

Reporters without Borders (RSF) also condemned the decision, calling for Assange's immediate release.

"We condemn today's decision, which will prove historic for all the wrong reasons," said RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire. "We fully believe that Julian Assange has been targeted for his contributions to journalism, and we defend this case because of its dangerous implications for the future of journalism and press freedom around the world," he added.

RSF also called on Washington to drop its long-running case against the journalist once and for all.

Assange was holed up in Ecuador's embassy building from 2012 to 2019, fighting extradition to the US. He was arrested in London after he was expelled from the embassy in 2019.

Assange has been confined to London's Belmarsh Prison since then, after being convicted of breaching bail over a Swedish sexual assault allegation, which has since been withdrawn.

The journalist could be imprisoned for up to 175 years in the US on purported espionage charges.


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