London: WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange can be extradited from the UK to the US, the High Court in London ruled on Friday, overturning a lower court decision that he could not be sent to America due to concerns over his mental health. Assange, 50, is wanted in the US over the publication of thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents in 2010 and 2011.
Friday’s ruling means the US authorities won their appeal against a January UK court ruling that the Australian national could not be extradited due to concerns over his mental health after the court was felt reassured by the US promises to reduce the risk of suicide.
Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett and Lord Justice Holroyde handed down the judgment following a hearing in October. Assange’s fiancee, Stella Moris, said they intended to appeal against the ”grave miscarriage of justice”.
In January, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser, presiding over the case at the Old Bailey court in London, ruled that Assange was likely to take his own life if extradited to the US – where he is wanted on 17 espionage charges and one charge of computer misuse over WikiLeaks publication of leaked military and diplomatic documents a decade ago. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison.
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The High Court judges found that Judge Barrister had based her decision on the risk of Assange being held in highly restrictive prison conditions if extradited. However, the US authorities later gave assurances that he would not face those strictest measures either pre-trial or post-conviction unless he committed an act in the future that required them.
Lord Burnett said: ”That risk is in our judgment excluded by the assurances which are offered. It follows that we are satisfied that, if the assurances had been before the judge, she would have answered the relevant question differently.
”That conclusion is sufficient to determine this appeal in the USA’s favour.” Lawyers acting for the US also argued Assange’s health is well enough for extradition.
Assange has been held in Belmarsh Prison since 2019 after he was carried out of the Ecuadorian embassy by police before being arrested for breaching his bail conditions.
He had been living in the embassy since 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden to face sex offence allegations, which he has always denied and were eventually dropped.