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WikiLeaks founder Assange 'will die' if extradited to US: Wife

WikiLeaks editor in chief, Kristinn Hrafnsson listens as Stella Assange, wife of Julian Assange, speaks during a press conference February 15, 2024. (Photo by Reuters)

Julian Assange's wife has warned that the WikiLeaks founder “will die” if he is extradited to the US, ahead of his appeal in the British High Court on February 20 and 21.

Stella Assange said on Thursday that it is her husband’s final chance to legally challenge his extradition from Britain to the United States.

“The situation is extremely grave. He could be on a plane within days. His health is in decline, mentally and physically. His life is at risk every single day he stays in prison, and if he’s extradited, he will die," Stella Assange told the media.

Assange, an Australian citizen is wanted by the American authorities over the release of classified military documents, charging him with 18 counts. If convicted, Assange could face espionage charges up to 175 years in prison in the US.

“Julian will be put in a hole if he is extradited, there is no doubt about that. He will be put in a hole so far and deep in the ground that I don’t think I’ll ever see him again,” Stella Assange added.

Britain approved his extradition in 2022, a decision which Assange's lawyers will fight to try and overturn next week at London's High Court.

The WikiLeaks founder's wife said the case was “politically motivated” and violates the UK-US extradition treaty which prohibits extradition for political reasons.

She said the “bogus extradition request” would have been thrown out by the UK authorities if it was made by any country other than the US.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and other members of parliament approved a motion on Wednesday urging the United Kingdom to return jailed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to Australia.

The proposal which was approved comes at a time when Britain's High Court is going to hear Assange’s appeal next week against his extradition to the US on espionage charges.

If the UK’s High Court rules against Assange next week, he could be extradited to the US within 28 days of the verdict.

Stella Assange said they would apply to the European Court of Human Rights for an injunction if his attempt to challenge his extradition at next week's hearing in London fails.

In January 2021, a judge ruled Assange should not be extradited as his mental health meant he would be at risk of suicide if held in a maximum security prison.

The High Court reversed that decision after an appeal by U.S. authorities who gave a series of assurances about Assange's treatment.

WikiLeaks gained prominence in 2010 when it released hundreds of thousands of classified files and diplomatic cables.

In 2010, the Australian national published a series of leaks provided by US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, including about 750,000 classified military and diplomatic documents related to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars which exposed the US military's crimes in these countries.  

From 2019 to 2012, Assange stayed at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. He was arrested in England in 2019 after Ecuador revoked his diplomatic asylum.

The WikiLeaks founder is known as a free press hero, who has been targeted for publishing West’s “uncomfortable truths”.

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