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On Friday the British High Court in London overturned an earlier lower court decision blocking the extradition of Julian Assange to the United States. The ruling sends the case back to Magistrate’s Court with instructions to allow the extradition to be approved or denied by the British Home Secretary Priti Patel.
The ruling, which included a decision to continue to hold Assange in a high security prison, is a severe blow to the Wikileaks co-founder’s efforts to prevent his extradition to the United States to face charges under the Espionage Act. The extradition is now in the hands of Patel, unless Assange’s lawyers, as expected, file an appeal to the U.K. Supreme Court. District court judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled in January that Assange could not be extradited because of inhumane conditions in U.S. prisons that would make Assange, who suffers from physical and mental health issues, a suicide risk.
The United States, in appealing the decision, gave assurances that Assange would receive adequate medical and psychological care and would not be subject to measures commonly used in high profiled cases such as prolonged isolation and Special Administrative Measures, known as SAMs, which impose draconian rules limiting any communication and allows the government to monitor meetings with attorneys in violation of attorney-client privilege. The U.S. attempt to extradite Assange has been widely condemned by civil liberties organizations including Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders, the International Federation of Journalists, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Human Rights Watch, which have called it an existential threat to press freedom. If extradited to the United States Assange, who oversaw WikiLeaks publications of documents and videos that exposed U.S. war crimes and a range of other illegal and nefarious activities, faces a 175-year prison sentence.
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