WikiLeaks founder Assange may be near the end of his long fight to stay out of the US

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s fight to avoid spying charges in the US ends following a lengthy legal battle in the UK that included seven years of self-imposed exile inside a foreign embassy and five years in prison. may be approaching.

Mr Assange will face what could be his final trial in London next week in a bid to prevent his extradition to the US. Day-long arguments are scheduled.

If the court does not allow the appeal to proceed, he could be sent across the Atlantic.

Julian Assange’s final court hearing could be held in London next week. Reuters

His wife said the decision was a matter of life and death for Assange, whose health had been deteriorating while in custody.

“His life is at risk every day in prison,” Stella Assange said Thursday. “If he is handed over, he will die.”

What was Assange charged with?

Australian computer expert Assange, 52, was indicted in the United States on 18 charges over WikiLeaks’ publication of hundreds of thousands of classified documents in 2010.

Prosecutors allege that the suspect conspired with U.S. military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to hack into Pentagon computers and release secret diplomatic cables and military files related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. ing.

He is charged with 17 counts of espionage and one count of computer fraud. If convicted, his lawyers say he could face up to 175 years in prison, but U.S. authorities believe any sentence he receives will be much lighter. It is considered highly likely.

Assange and his supporters argue that he is working as a journalist to expose wrongdoing in the U.S. military and is protected under the First Amendment’s freedom of the press. ing.

Julian Assange’s own wife has described the decision as a matter of life and death. Reuters

Among the files released by WikiLeaks was footage of a 2007 attack by U.S. Apache helicopters in Baghdad that killed 11 people, including two Reuters reporters.

Stella Assange said: “Julian is charged with receiving, possessing, and communicating information to the public evidence of war crimes committed by the United States government.” “Reporting a crime is never a crime.”

U.S. lawyers say Assange is guilty of trying to hack into Pentagon computers and that WikiLeaks publications posed a “grave and imminent danger” to U.S. intelligence sources in Afghanistan and Iraq. ing.

Supporters of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange hold up posters with his photo during a protest outside the British Embassy in Madrid, Spain, on December 11, 2010. AP

Why has the lawsuit dragged on so long?

The US criminal case against Assange was only unsealed in 2019, but his freedom has been restricted for more than a decade.

Assange took asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012 and was granted political asylum after a British court decided to extradite him to Sweden as part of a rape investigation in the Scandinavian country.

After the Ecuadorian government revoked his asylum status in 2019, he was arrested by British police and jailed for failing to post bail when he first sought refuge inside the embassy.

Julian Assange speaks to the media from the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy in May. 19, 2017 in London, England. Getty Images

Sweden has suspended its sex crimes investigation, but Assange remains in London’s high-security Belmarsh prison while his extradition battle with the United States continues.

A judge in London initially blocked Mr. Assange’s extradition to the United States on the grounds that he was likely to commit suicide if detained in harsh American prisons.

But a subsequent court hearing cleared the way for the move after U.S. authorities assured him that he would not undergo harsh treatment that his lawyers said would jeopardize his physical and mental health.

Julian Assange is guilty of trying to hack into Pentagon computers, according to a US lawyer. AFP (via Getty Images)

Supporters of Stella Assange and her husband have criticized the guarantees as meaningless because they are conditional.

What are the possible outcomes from the hearing?

If a London court rejects Assange’s full appeal, he could be extradited to the United States once British authorities approve his removal from office.

His lawyers plan to appeal the unfavorable ruling to the European Court of Human Rights, but fear he could be transferred before a court in Strasbourg, France, can block his removal.

If he prevails at next week’s hearing, the stage will be set for an appeals process that will likely drag out the case even further.

WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristin Hrafnsson said: “This process is characterized by a long creeping period.” “We call it punishment by process. It’s clearly a deliberate attempt to tire him out and punish him for taking this long.”

Britain’s highest court rejected Assange’s appeal, saying he had not raised any “arguable points of law”, but his wife said his new bid would raise several grounds for appeal. He said points would be raised.

Mr. Assange’s lawyers argue that he cannot receive a fair trial in the United States, that the U.S.-UK treaty prohibits extradition for political crimes, and that the espionage charge does not apply to the publisher. I plan to.

“The authors of the Espionage Act never intended for publishers to fall within its purview,” Stella Assange wrote on X (formerly Twitter). “Irrefutable evidence by experts showed that the receipt and publication of state secrets was routine and that there was a ‘continued practice of non-prosecution’ against publishers.” “Go beyond the boundaries of legal precedent” and “break all precedents.”

What is Assange doing now?

Stella Assange said her husband’s physical and mental health had deteriorated dramatically and he was aging prematurely in prison. He suffered a mild stroke in October 2021, and in December his health became so unwell that he broke his ribs while coughing.

“Every time he gets sick, I worry about him,” Stella Assange said. “The mental burden is enormous.”

The couple, who married in Belmarsh Prison about two years ago, have two young sons, Gabriel and Max, who were conceived while Mr Assange was in the embassy.

Stella Assange said the boys visit their father in prison every week and undergo security checks, including being patted by guards and sniffed by dogs.

The mother said the couple protects her children, but the children have not been told why their father went to prison.

“I don’t think it’s fair for them to know what’s really going on,” she said, her voice breaking. “They know exactly what prison is. They know that the guards are stopping Julian from trying to get out of prison even though he wants to go home.”