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UK Interior Minister Priti Patel has approved the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States.
Patel’s decision to hand a reporter over to the US government for prosecution was immediately condemned by human rights and press freedom organizations. Assange’s legal team planned to appeal to the High Court of Justice to challenge the political nature of the case and how the extradition law was interpreted.
Describing it as “shameful”, Reporters Without Borders international campaign director Rebecca Vincent affirmed the decision. represented “another UK failure to protect journalism and press freedom, leading Julian Assange one step closer to extradition.”
The world human rights organization Amnesty International renewed their opposition. “Allowing Julian Assange’s extradition to the United States would put him at risk and send a chilling message to journalists around the world.”
Don’t Extradite Assange, a campaign that mobilized opposition to the case in the UK, said: “This is a dark day for press freedom and for British democracy. Anyone who cares about freedom of expression in this country should be deeply ashamed that the Minister of the Interior approved Julian Assange’s extradition to the United States, the country that traced his murder. “
Assange faces 18 charges brought against him by the US Department of Justice, 17 of which fall under the Espionage Act. All charges relate to WikiLeaks documents released in 2010 and 2011, provided by US Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning.
Over 300 doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists organized under the banner of “Doctors for Assange” have sent a letter to Patel on June 10 who reminded Patel of “grave concerns” relating to the “deteriorating health” of the founder of WikiLeaks, which has deteriorated while in custody of the United Kingdom.
“Under the conditions where the UK legal system did not take into account Mr Assange’s current state of health,” said the doctors, “no valid decision to approve his extradition can be made by you or anyone else” . The doctors made it clear that the extradition of a person with such compromised health was “unacceptable from a medical and ethical point of view”.
They added: “Should any damage be suffered in the United States under these circumstances, it is you, the Minister of the Interior, who will remain responsible for that negligent outcome.” Nineteen organizations committed to freedom of expression and freedom of the press he wrote a letter to Patel on April 22, immediately after the district court ordered Assange’s extradition and sent it to the Interior Ministry for review.
“[Assange] very likely to be detained [in the US] in conditions of isolation or isolation despite assurances from the US government, which would seriously aggravate his risk of suicide, ”the organizations warned. “[He] it would not be able to adequately defend itself in US courts, as the Espionage Act lacks a public interest defense. The accusation of him would create a dangerous precedent that could be applied to any media that has published stories based on leaked information, or even to any journalist, editor or source anywhere in the world. “
“We ask you, Minister of the Interior, to honor the UK government’s commitment to protect and promote media freedom and to reject the US extradition request. We ask you to release Mr. Assange from Belmarsh Prison and allow him to return to his young family after many years of isolation. Finally, we ask that you make a public commitment to ensure that no publisher, journalist or source should ever be arrested again in the UK for posting information in the public interest. “
The organizations requested a meeting with Patel, but it does not appear that a meeting was ever granted so that the lawyers could further express their concerns.
On 10 May Dunja Mijatović, commissioner for the Council of Europe appealed to Patel. “I believe that the US indictment of Mr. Assange raises important questions about the protection of those who publish confidential information in the public interest, including information exposing human rights violations.”
“The broad and vague nature of the allegations against Mr. Assange and the crimes listed in the indictment are worrying as many of them involve activities at the heart of investigative journalism in Europe and beyond,” said Mijatović.
“Consequently, allowing Mr Assange’s extradition on this basis would have a chilling effect on media freedom and could ultimately hamper the press in fulfilling its role as an information provider and public guard in democratic societies.”
All of the aforementioned openings in Patel have apparently been blown away. There is no evidence that the allegations on the Assange case were ever considered by Patel.
The news of the decision did not even come from Patel herself. An unnamed spokesperson for the Interior Ministry provided remarks that they were circulated by the British media.
“Under the Extradition Act 2003, the Secretary of State must sign an extradition order if there is no reason to prohibit the execution of the order. Extradition requests are sent to the Minister of the Interior only once a judge decides that he can proceed after considering various aspects of the case “.
“On June 17, following the examination of both the judiciary and the high court, the extradition of Mr. Julian Assange in the United States. Mr. Assange retains the normal right of 14 days of appeal “.
“In this case, the UK courts have not found that it would be oppressive, unfair or an abusive process to extradite Mr Assange,” said the unnamed spokesperson. “Nor did they consider that extradition would be incompatible with his human rights, including his right to a fair trial and freedom of expression.” They also said his health would be treated appropriately in the United States.
But this was not a new statement from a department willing to take public responsibility for approving the request. It was a kind of vulgar paraphrase of the legal criteria used as a cover to avoid defending or justifying the action of the Ministry of the Interior.
The spokesperson faithfully reproduced the “assurances” made in diplomatic notes to the UK Foreign Office from the US State Department, intervening after the Crown Prosecution Service and the US government lost the case at the district court on January 4. 2021.
The US State Department’s intervention played a pivotal role in salvaging the extradition request. The High Court of Justice relied on insurance when it overturned the district court decision in December 2021.
Eventually, Patel and the UK government preceded the UK’s role as the US government’s client state to challenge the case. This is a role that the UK has consistently and dutifully played since supporting the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
The US and UK have agreed on an alarming and unprecedented extradition request that criminalizes someone for engaging in standard news-gathering activities not only because they share the US government’s disgust for Assange, but also because UK officials United appreciate the US-UK partnership more than human rights.
Patel and the Home Office supported an expansion of official secrets laws in the UK as the US extradition request went through UK courts. Like Mohamed Elmaazi reported For The Dissenter, the proposed expansion would allow the UK government to imprison “dispersants, leaks recipients and secondary publishers, including journalists, from the current maximum of two years to a maximum of 14 years in prison”.
The Interior Ministry argued that there was no longer much difference between “espionage and the most serious unauthorized disclosures”. The department viewed journalism as an act capable of “far greater harm” than traditional espionage.
Operation Pelican, the name for the pressure campaign to force Assange to leave the Ecuadorian embassy in London, which was supported by the Ministry of the Interior. The declassified UK chief investigator Matt Kennard reported that Patel was on the advisory board of a CIA-linked right-wing group called the Henry Jackson Society, which has attacked Assange multiple times since 2010.
Without any significant objection within the UK government, if Assange is eventually put on a plane and taken to the US for trial, they, along with the US government, will take responsibility for any tragedy that occurs. in a prison or prison in the United States.