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Julian Assange “Will Die” If Extradited To US, Says His Wife

The United States is seeking to convict Julian Assange under the Espionage Act of 1917. (File)

London:

Julian Assange’s wife said Thursday that the WikiLeaks founder would die if extradited to the United States, ahead of his latest appeal against a British sentence.

Assange, 52, is wanted in the United States on suspicion of espionage and has been held at high-security Belmarsh Prison in south-east London since April 2019.

Stella Assange told a press conference that if she loses her appeal, her husband could be on a plane to the United States “within a few days” and a two-day High Court hearing is expected to begin next Tuesday. he said.

She said his mental and physical health was “deteriorating” and the situation was “very serious”. “If he is extradited, he will die,” she added.

Julian Assange was arrested after barricading himself in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for seven years to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faced sexual assault charges that were eventually dropped.

US authorities want to take an Australian publisher to court for leaking US military secrets about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Two judges at London’s High Court will hear Mr Assange’s request for leave to appeal against the latest judgment approving the extradition. In June last year, a single judge refused permission to appeal.

However, if the appeal is successful, Mr Assange will have a further opportunity to argue his case in the UK’s domestic courts, and a full appeal hearing date will be set.

If he loses, all appeals in the UK will be over and extradition proceedings will begin, but his team has said they intend to appeal to the European courts.

“Anti-reporting pandemic”

The UK is part of the European Court of Human Rights, and the power to order a stay of extradition is within the court’s powers. However, these will only be granted in “exceptional circumstances”.

The UK government will also be required to accept the order, although its acceptance is uncertain given Rwanda’s ongoing dispute with the European Court of Justice after it blocked plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Assange is suspected of having released approximately 700,000 classified documents related to U.S. military and diplomatic activities since 2010.

As the United States seeks to convict Mr. Assange under the Espionage Act of 1917, his supporters warn that he could be sentenced to 175 years in prison.

A British court approved the extradition request after the United States promised not to imprison him in the harshest prison, ADX Florence, or subject him to a harsh regime known as “special administrative measures.”

But WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Christine Hlavnsson said Thursday that the warnings contained in the promise meant it was “not worth the paper it’s written on.”

The impact of this incident on the future of press freedom “cannot be underestimated,” he added.

He spoke of the “anti-press pandemic” sweeping the world and said, “No journalist anywhere is safe, including you in this room today.”

Assange’s wife, Stella, said she had “learned not to be optimistic” ahead of the court’s decision and expressed concern about the possible outcome.

If extradited, “Julian will be put in a hole, deep underground, and I don’t think we’ll ever see him again,” she said.

It remains unclear whether a decision will be made immediately after next week’s hearing or whether it will be put on hold and whether Mr Assange will be allowed to attend in person.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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