The battle over Julian Assange’s extradition resumes in London

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LONDON | After several months of a prolonged interruption by the coronavirus pandemic, British justice resumes, Monday, the examination of the extradition request of the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, claimed by the United States who want to judge him for the dissemination of hundreds of thousands of confidential documents.

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The 49-year-old Australian is being prosecuted in particular for espionage by the American justice system, for having disseminated from 2010 more than 700,000 classified documents on American military and diplomatic activities, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. He faces 175 years in prison.

The United States accuses the founder of WikiLeaks of having endangered sources of American services. Assange’s lawyers denounce, for their part, a “political” procedure based on “lies”.

Ahead of the resumption in London of the hearing, which is set to last three or four weeks, his supporters called for a protest outside the Old Bailey Criminal Court on Monday morning.

Julian Assange is currently imprisoned in London’s Belmarsh High Security Prison, where his conditions of detention have been denounced by the UN rapporteur on torture.

His extradition would amount to a “death penalty,” said his lawyer, Stella Moris, who has become his partner, in Times Saturday. The 37-year-old fears Julian Assange will end his life and the two children she had with him while he was reclusive at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London will grow up without their father.

The founder of WikiLeaks was arrested in April 2019 after seven years behind the walls of the Ecuadorian diplomatic representation, where he had taken refuge after violating the conditions of his bail, fearing extradition to the United States.

An “almost certain” call

It is up to British justice to determine whether the American request for extradition submitted to it meets a certain number of legal criteria, and in particular if it is not disproportionate or incompatible with human rights.

But, whatever the decision, it is “almost certain” that it will be appealed by the party which will not have succeeded, stressed to AFP John Rees, one of the persons in charge of the campaign against Assange’s extradition.

During the four-day hearing held in February, Julian Assange appeared at times confused, struggling to maintain his attention.

One of the lawyers of the founder of WikiLeaks, Edward Fitzgerald, had before the judge drawn up against a lawsuit motivated by “political reasons” and thus null, insofar as the American-British agreement prohibits “expressly” the extraditions for “political offenses”.

The lawyer accused US President Donald Trump of wanting to make his client an “example” in his “war on investigative journalists”.

For his part, the representative of the United States James Lewis argued that the founder of WikiLeaks “is not charged with revealing embarrassing or embarrassing information”, but to have endangered the lives of American sources by publishing this crowd of documents.

Assange is responsible for “one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States,” he denounced.

Among the published documents was a video showing civilians killed by US gunship fire in Iraq in July 2007, including two journalists from Reuters.

At the heart of the debates is also the question of whether Julian Assange carries out journalistic activities, which must be protected as such.

Forty human rights and press freedom organizations recently called for his “immediate release”.

The call for Paris to grant Julian Assange political asylum was renewed last month by a French association campaigning for prisoners’ rights, Robin des Lois. A request ardently pleaded last February by his French lawyer Eric Dupond-Moretti who, since, has hung up the dress to become Minister of Justice.

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