Can we extradite Priti....................... to hell?
On Friday, the UK approved the extradition of the whistle-blowing platform WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the US. Assange is wanted in the US in connection with the leaks of hundreds of thousands of classified documents relating to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in 2010 and 2011.
The documents revealed how the US military had killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents during the war in Afghanistan, and showed 66,000 civilians had been killed in Iraq.
UK Home Secretary Priti Patel approved the decision to extradite Assange after the courts found that extradition would not be “incompatible with his human rights”. This is in spite of the fact that the leaked documents show US officials discussed assassinating Assange in 2017.
In November 2010, Sweden issued an international arrest warrant for Assange over allegations of sexual misconduct – allegations which Assange claimed were merely a pretext for his extradition from Sweden to the US over his leaking of classified documents.
He then took refuge inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he remained between 2012 and 2019. He was dragged out of the embassy in 2019 and has been held at Belmarsh prison ever since.
Now, Patel has approved Assange’s extradition to the US – meaning he won’t be questioned by Sweden about the 2010 sexual assault allegations, but will instead face hacking and espionage charges in the US for exposing the country’s war crimes in Iraq.
WikiLeaks has since confirmed it would appeal against Patel’s decision. “Today is not the end of the fight. It is only the beginning of a new legal battle. We will appeal through the legal system. This is a dark day for press freedom and for British democracy,” it said in a statement. “Anyone in this country who cares about freedom of expression should be deeply ashamed that the home secretary has approved the extradition of Julian Assange to the United States, the country that plotted his assassination.”
“Julian did nothing wrong. He has committed no crime and is not a criminal. He is a journalist and a publisher, and he is being punished for doing his job,” it continued, going on to directly criticise Patel: “It was in Priti Patel’s power to do the right thing. Instead, she will forever be remembered as an accomplice of the United States in its agenda to turn investigative journalism into a criminal enterprise.”
Assange’s wife, Stella Assange, echoed these sentiments in a separate statement. “Julian is a political prisoner. We will use every avenue to appeal this decision. I will dedicate every waking hour to fight for justice until he is free.”
Amnesty International said approving the extradition has put Assange at great risk and sends “a chilling message” to journalists. Former government minister David Davis added that he did not think Assange would have a fair trial in the US: "This extradition treaty needs to be rewritten to give British and American citizens identical rights, unlike now.”
A Home Office spokesperson said under the Extradition Act 2003 the secretary of state “must sign” an extradition order if there are no grounds to prohibit it. "The UK courts have not found that it would be oppressive, unjust or an abuse of process to extradite Mr Assange,” they said.