UK Supreme Court snubs Assange anti-extradition bid

Home Secretary ponders putting WikiLeaker on one-way US flight


Julian Assange has all but lost his fight against extradition from Britain to America after the UK Supreme Court said his case "did not raise an arguable point of law."

The former WikiLeaks chief's future now rests in the tender hands of British Home Secretary Priti Patel, who must formally decide whether or not to extradite him for trial in the US.

American prosecutors want the Australian in court over a multitude of espionage charges, including one alleging that he commissioned the cracking of a password protecting US Department of Defense files from unauthorized access.

Assange's fiancée Stella Moris described the Supreme Court rejection of her betrothed's legal efforts as "corrupting," saying: "Julian was just doing his job, which was to publish the truth about wrongdoing. His loyalty is the same as that which all journalists should have: to the public. Not to the spy agencies of a foreign power."

WikiLeaks has been repeatedly accused of being a willing conduit for Russian intelligence agencies to steer and control political debate in the US. Although the site's operators denied formal links, the US Democratic Party sued the Russian government in 2018 for hacking its servers. It alleged that WikiLeaks had been used to launder the stolen information into American political discourse, laying the grounds for Donald Trump to be elected US president in 2016. So the case goes, Trump was Russia's preferred alternative to Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton.

Set up as a website for whistleblowers to leak confidential documents into the public domain, WikiLeaks became notorious very quickly for its disclosure of stolen US diplomatic cables in plain-text. These form another part of the case against Assange in America: Uncle Sam says he placed its spies and diplomats' lives at risk by publishing the cables, something he has denied.

Assange's fate now rests with Patel. Moris said: "It is in her hands to prove that the UK is better than all of this. Patel can end Britain's exposure to international ridicule because of Julian's incarceration."

The ex-WikiLeaker was in this exact situation 10 years ago, when the British Supreme Court described a previous legal bid to avoid extradition as being "without merit" – lawyer-speak for "not a sodding chance, mate."

At that time Assange was trying to avoid extradition over what he said were politically motivated allegations of sexual assault in Sweden. His version of events was that the accusations were trumped up by Swedish allies of the US government as a pretext to kidnap him en route and fly him to the US, where he would be imprisoned (or even executed) for WikiLeaks' travails. When the British justice system rejected his 2012 bid for freedom, Assange jumped bail and holed up in Ecuador's London embassy.

There he outstayed his welcome until, after eight years and a change of government, the Ecuadorians ejected him straight into the hands of London police. He now lives in Her Majesty's Prison Belmarsh, a category A institution in southeast London, where he is remanded in custody as a flight risk.

Over the past couple of years Assange has been fighting extradition from England to the US, almost wholly unsuccessfully. A district judge threw out all of his legal arguments against extradition at first instance – except for one finding that he would commit suicide if sent to America. The inevitable US appeal overturned that, based on promises of humane treatment. ®

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