Assange Jake Johnson

Press Freedoms Under ‘Grave Threat’ as British Court Rules Assange Can Be Extradited to U.S.

The latest ruling in the WikiLeaks founder's case was immediately condemned as an "utterly shameful development that has alarming implications not only for Assange's mental health, but also for journalism and press freedom around the world."
[Espen Moe / CC BY 2.0]

By Jake Johnson | Common Dreams

Read Chris Hedges’ columns on the persecution of Julian Assange here, here, and here. You can also read a speech Hedges gave at a rally in support of the WikiLeaks founder here.

A British court ruled Friday that WikiLeaks founder and publisher Julian Assange can be extradited to the United States to face charges of violating the Espionage Act, a decision that rights groups say poses a profound threat to global press freedoms.

“This is an utterly shameful development that has alarming implications not only for Assange’s mental health, but also for journalism and press freedom around the world,” Rebecca Vincent, director of international campaigns for Reporters Without Borders, said in response to the ruling.

The decision, which Assange’s legal team is expected to appeal, overturns an earlier ruling by Judge Vanessa Baraitser of the Westminster Magistrates’ Court, who argued in January that extradition would endanger the WikiLeaks founder’s life.

“We will appeal this decision at the earliest possible moment,” Stella Moris, Assange’s fiancée, said in a statement. “How can it be fair, how can it be right, how can it be possible, to extradite Julian to the very country which plotted to kill him?”

The Biden administration has thus far ignored pressure from human rights groups to drop the charges, which stem from Assange’s publication of classified information that exposed U.S. war crimes. The Espionage Act charges were filed during the tenure of former President Donald Trump, whose administration reportedly considered assassinating or kidnapping Assange, who has been detained in a high-security London prison since 2019.

“Julian’s life is once more under grave threat, and so is the right of journalists to publish material that governments and corporations find inconvenient,” Kristinn Hrafnsson, editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, said Friday. “This is about the right of a free press to publish without being threatened by a bullying superpower.”

The British court’s ruling in favor of Assange’s extradition came on the final day of the U.S.-hosted “Summit for Democracy,” an irony that was not lost on critics.

“Biden’s administration cannot reasonably claim to support principles of democracy and human rights while at the same time seeking the extradition of a publisher, Julian Assange, which is opposed by global press freedom organizations,” Shadowproof‘s Kevin Gosztola argued in response to the decision.

Christophe Deloire, executive director of Reporters Without Borders, warned that the British court’s ruling could “prove historic for all the wrong reasons.”

“We defend this case because of its dangerous implications for the future of press freedom around the world,” said Deloire. “It is time to put a stop to this more than decade-long persecution once and for all. It is time to free Assange.”

10 comments

  1. Shame on England. Shame on US.

    “Without a Free Press there can be No Democracy”
    Thomas Jefferson
    (who as President, gave Thomas Paine sanctuary to come to the U.S.)
    How far we have fallen….

  2. If there is anyone, in this world, who still believes anything – when it comes to Julian Assange, any official spokesperson, speaking on behalf of the U.S. ‘government’ (the UK ‘legal’ system par excellence) says, they need to have their head examined, especially if that guarantee emanates from the mouth of the likes of a groupie, toady, who happens, at this particular time, to be the Secretary of State, Anthony (keep the blinders on for those not permitted to see the truth) Blinken, the head operative for the regime of the clandestine state, worldwide.

  3. “U.S.-hosted “Summit for Democracy,” by a nation lacking even the slightest inkling of democracy. Also December 10 is “Human Rights Day”, another aspect the USA pretends against all evidence to care about.

  4. Assange is an ambitious fuckwad who lucked into a pile of secret data courtesy of a mentally unstable person who should never have been employed by any armed forces anywhere ever, which data he then indiscriminately dumped online because he wanted to play with the big boys. Now, much to this detriment, he’s finding out that the big boys play for keeps.

    And what service did he do for the rest of us? He demonstrated that the US engages in war crimes — something we have all known at least since Hiroshima. Big whoop. And in the process of doing so, he endangered god knows how many people who actually put their lives on the line to keep you and me safe. No journalist worthy of the name would be so callous and unthinking.

    He made his bed. Time to sleep in it. Sweet dreams, Jools.

  5. It is despicable for the US to extradite Julian Assange. It is clearly an abuse of power and an act of retaliation. It is the proof that our government is corrupt.

  6. if potter Stewart is correct that , “censorship reflects a society that has no confidence in itself” then common dreams has none

    1. alexandr herzen:

      “if … censorship reflects a society that has no confidence in itself” then Common Dreams has none” Agreed. What a disappointment.

  7. I would never support the idea of extraditing Julian Assange to the United States, and I don’t take the latter’s assurances that he will be treated well with anything but deep skepticism. Extradition to the country that plotted to kidnap or kill him?

    This being said, I think it’s a mistake to fall all over ourselves turning Assange into an innocent party, or a saintly cult figure. WikiLeaks (and Assange specifically) lost the moral high ground when they turned the release of data on corruption and the malefactions of states and people in high places into personal vendettas. More egregiously, they doxed millions of Turkey’s female voters through wanton carelessness — and this in a country that was already trending towards brute authoritarianism.

    Indeed, the cavalier attitude behind the release of even the Clinton and DNC emails to reveal the personal information of so many individuals, including social security numbers, as well as passport and credit card details, and personal family phone calls and emails, is another such instance.

    Nobody has squandered goodwill more than Assange by failing to redact the data he was releasing so as to protect the innocent. Even Amnesty International and other human rights organizations in 2010 asked Assange to remove information about Afghan civilians caught up in the WikiLeaks release of data.

    Any claims Assange may once have had to being a “journalist” or “publisher” have long since been undermined by his personal animosities and willingness to get into bed with very unsavory characters to pursue a personal agenda. This is not hournalism in the public interest.

    If WikiLeaks the organization can show some independence from Assange the narcissistic megalomaniac, WikiLeaks may yet do some good.

    There’s a vast difference between the release of carefully chosen data by Edward Snowden and the wholesale dumps by WikiLeaks in certain instances, and the alacrity with which Snowden was condemned as itching for a pardon from putative President Hillary Clinton in July 2016 with his very restrained criticism of WikiLeaks’s “uncurated” DNC dump is a mild illustration of just how hostile Assange is to anyone who doesn’t lick his boots, and how reflexively cruel and thuggish he can be.

    I hope Mr Asssange gets the medical care he needs, and will one day be tried by a neutral judiciary IF credible charges can be brought against him. So yes, let’s protest his extradition to the US — among other things so as to protect the rights of academics, journalists, and whistleblowers — but I think the uncritical adulation is misplaced.

    Here are some insights into Assange by British journalist Andrew O’Hagan, originally commissioned to ghostwrite Assange’s autobiography: https://www.vox.com/conversations/2017/6/6/15729360/julian-assange-andrew-ohagan-secret-life

    And more from the late lamented Christopher Hitchens (whose jarring thoughts about the Iraq War notwithstanding, had something interesting to say about Assange’s modus operandi): https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2010/12/the-wikileaks-founder-is-an-unscrupulous-megalomaniac-with-a-political-agenda.html

  8. ‘Freedom’ on this planet is a myth. Everything we say or do has some restriction attached. Julian Assange is the sacrificial lamb and anyone with half a brain knows it. How we the people allow this kind of shit to happen is beyond my comprehension…FUCK THE USA!!!

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