What will happen to Julian Assange if he is extradited to the United States?

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is fighting to avoid being extradited to the United States, where he faces rare prosecutions for “espionage”.

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The United States accuses the Australian of the publication in 2010 by its WikiLeaks site of 250,000 diplomatic cables and approximately 500,000 confidential documents relating to the activities of the American army in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2013, a court martial sentenced former military analyst Chelsea Manning to 35 years in prison, the source of this colossal leak. After seeing his sentence commuted by President Barack Obama, this icon of the transgender cause was released in May 2017.

Justice has moved more cautiously in the case of Julian Assange. Prosecutions for “computer hacking” were secretly launched at the end of 2017. But he was not charged with “espionage” until May 2019, under a law passed in 1917 to prevent the disclosure of confidential information in time. of war.

If transferred to the United States, Julian Assange will face trial in federal court in Virginia and face 17 charges, including obtaining and disclosing national defense information. He faces up to 175 years in prison.

The lawsuit is expected to be a bitter battle over the Constitution’s First Amendment, which protects freedom of the press.

In an attempt to escape it, the American authorities insist that Julian Assange is neither “a journalist” nor “a press editor”, and that he has endangered agents and military sources.

But the case raises difficult legal questions at a time when citizen-journalists are spreading on the internet. It is likely to be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court.

In January 2021, a British court refused the American extradition request, considering that the conditions of imprisonment in the United States risked fueling his suicidal tendencies.

The US government finally convinced an appeals court to agree with it by providing several safeguards.

Washington notably assured that Assange would receive appropriate care and would not be incarcerated in the ADX very high security prison in Florence (Colorado), nicknamed the “Alcatraz of the Rockies”.

He also promised that the Wikileaks founder would not be subject to “special administrative measures” before, during and after the trial. The term covers in particular a regime of almost total isolation, frequently denounced by associations for the defense of human rights.

Julian Assange will finally be able to ask to serve his sentence in Australia, once all appeals have been exhausted.

But its defenders do not trust the United States, which they accuse of having “often broken promises on detention”.

Press freedom associations have criticized his indictment for “espionage”, deemed dangerous for journalists, and should mobilize in his favor.

But in a country very attached to its army, the revelations of WikiLeaks have been variously appreciated: if some Americans have praised the denunciation of military blunders, others have strongly criticized the endangerment of field agents.

During the 2016 election campaign, Julian Assange also alienated parts of the left by publishing emails stolen by Russian hackers from Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s team, which gave Donald Trump an advantage.

According to a poll conducted in April 2019, 53% of Americans supported his extradition to the United States and only 17% opposed it.

The Australian has 14 days to appeal to the British High Court against the extradition order signed by Home Secretary Priti Patel. If the high court seizes it, the hearing will probably not take place before 2023.

He could also appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), a generally long process.

Apart from legal remedies, his extradition could be delayed for medical reasons if his health deteriorates. His wife assured that he had had a micro stroke last October.


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