Calls to stop Julian Assange's extradition following arrest

Following the arrest of Julian Assange in London’s Ecuadorian embassy on Thursday, there are now calls to stop his extradition to the US.

The WikiLeaks co-founder took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London from 2012 to 2019 to stop himself being extradited to Sweden after he was accused of sexual assault – a case that has now been dropped.

Before being detained by police on Thursday the Ecuadorian government removed his right to asylum as the self-proclaimed journalist was accused of being rude to embassy staff and interfering in affairs related to one of the biggest US government leaks.

Assange appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in central London on Thursday afternoon where he pleaded not guilty to the charge of failing to surrender in 2012 – something he could receive 12 months for.

Finding him guilty however was District Judge, Michael Snow, who said Assange’s actions were “the behaviour of a narcissist who cannot get beyond his own selfish interest”.

He will also remain in custody after an extradition hearing on May 2.

The 47-year-old now faces charges of conspiring to hack into US government computer accounts for which he could face a maximum of five years in prison.

But it is now up to the UK government whether they will cooperate with the US and agree to his extradition following allegations from the Department for Justice that he conspired to download top secret databases with Chelsea Manning – a former US intelligence analyst who provided classified documents to WikiLeaks.

Chelsea Manning, a transgender woman formerly known as Bradley Manning, was in 2013 convicted of leaking to WikiLeaks 700,000 military and State Department documents.

In 2017 she was released having served only seven years of her 35-year sentence which was pursued by former president Barack Obama.

It seems likely the UK government will conform to US extradition demands, with Sajid Javid, Jeremy Hunt and Theresa May stating the arrest of Assange showed that no-one is “above the law”.

However, the Labour opposition has a different view of how the WikiLeaks co-founder should be treated.

Jeremy Corbyn tweeted: “The extradition of Julian Assange to the US for exposing evidence of atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan should be opposed by the British government.”

Also taking to Twitter to voice her view was Shadow Home Secretary Dianne Abbot, who added that as the government blocked the extradition of computer hacker Gary McKinnon – they should do the same regarding Julian Assange.

Speaking outside of the court after Assange was found guilty, his lawyer Jennifer Robinson stated his legal team would continue campaigning against his extradition request.

“Since 2010 we’ve warned that Julian Assange would face extradition to the US for his publishing activities. Unfortunately, today we have been proved right.”

Robinson added that Assange thanked his supporters and had said “I told you so”, referring to the fact he supposedly knew a US extradition request would be logged following his dismissal from the Ecuadorian embassy.

She added: “This sets a dangerous precedent for all journalist and media organisations in Europe and around the world – this precedent means that any journalist can be extradited for prosecution in the United States for having published truthful information about the United States.”

Freedom of speech fighter Assange has been remanded in custody and will be sentenced at Southwark Crown Court at a date to be set for the charge of breaching his bail conditions in the UK in 2012.

He will also appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on May 2 reportedly by prison video link regarding his extradition and the charges he faces in the US.

 

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