Assange’s extradition hearing is due to commence with his legal team fighting his extradition to the United States.
The Australian born WikiLeaks is facing charges on one of the largest compromises of classified information in 2010 and 2011. Unforgettably, WikiLeaks published a classified United States military video which showed an Apache attack helicopter shooting down eleven civilians, inclusive of two journalists in Baghdad in 2007.
Former United States Army Intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning was jailed due her connection with the leaks.
In June 2012 Assange entered Ecuador’s embassy in London and was granted asylum until April 2019. In April 2019 the Ecuadorian government withdrew his asylum and Metropolitan Police arrested him over outstanding arrest warrants from 2012.
Assange is facing 17 charges regarding obtaining and disclosing classified information and one charge regarding an alleged conspiracy with Chelsea Manning to crack passwords on government servers. The United States have publicly indicated that by Assange releasing the documents and files he endangered lives, damaged national security and aided its adversaries.
Assange remains firm on his position that the information exposed abuses by the United States Military and he was acting as a journalist, therefore is entitled to protection by the United States First Amendment. The First Amendment provides freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and the right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The extradition process began in February 2020 however due to the coronavirus pandemic was delayed. The Court is required to examine a series of factors before extradition can be granted, one of these factors is if the alleged crimes have equivalent offences in the United Kingdom and could lead to a Trial. This is known as “double criminality” which essentially looks at if the offences Assange is being charged with under United States law are broadly recognised by United Kingdom law.
Prosecutors have argued that his charges would amount to offences under the United Kingdom’s Official Secrets Act. The Official Secrets Acts 1911 to 1989 are a series of four legal documents protecting the United Kingdom against espionage and the leaking of sensitive government information.
If the Court agrees with Prosecutions then it must consider the impact that extradition would have on Assange’s health. If the Court deems that extradition would be detrimental to his health there could be an opportunity of protecting Assange in the United Kingdom under European Human Rights law.
Further, Assange’s legal team has indicated that the United States is seeking to prosecute Assange for political offences and he is therefore exempt from extradition under the terms of the United Kingdom- United States extradition treaty.
The Hearing is likely to last between three to four weeks with a decision likely to face Appeal to a higher court.
If Assange is extradited to the United States and found guilty he is facing a maximum of 175 years imprisonment.