WikiLeaks founder Julien Assange is facing a decision on extradition to the United States

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will be told on Monday whether a British judge has approved his extradition to the United States to be responsible for charges including espionage for the release of secret US military documents.

US authorities accuse Australian-born Assange, 49, of 18 counts of conspiring to hack government computers and violating secrecy laws by dropping large amounts of confidential military records and diplomatic cables more than a decade ago.

If he is extradited and then convicted of espionage, Assange could go to prison for 30 to 40 years, his lawyers say, although prosecutors say he would not receive more than 63 months in prison.

Whoever loses Monday’s verdict will probably appeal to London’s Supreme Court and the case can go to the UK’s Supreme Court, which further delays the final result.

U.S. prosecutors and Western security officials see Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, as a ruthless and dangerous enemy of the state whose actions endanger the lives of agents whose names were in the material.

Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online.

Assange’s legal team said in its concluding written statement to Judge Vanessa Baraitser that the indictment had been politically motivated “during a unique period of US history under the (US President Donald) Trump administration.”

The legal team representing the United States has challenged this claim, saying that US federal prosecutors are prohibited from considering political opinion when making their decisions.

Diplomatic cables

WikiLeaks published a US military video in 2010 showing an attack by Apache helicopters in Baghdad in 2007 that killed a dozen people, including two Reuters news staff. It then released thousands of secret classified files and diplomatic cables.

The legal saga began shortly thereafter when Sweden sought Assange’s extradition from Britain due to allegations of sex crimes. When he dropped the case in 2012, he fled to the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he spent seven years, during which he gave birth to two children.

When he was finally pulled out in April 2019, he was imprisoned for violating the British bail, even though the Swedish case against him had been dropped. In June last year, the US Department of Justice formally asked the UK to extradite him.

Assange’s legal team says the allegations are politically motivated, his mental health is in jeopardy, conditions in US prisons violate Britain’s human rights laws, and he and his lawyers were spied on while at the Ecuadorian embassy.

The US legal team has said that many of Assange’s defense arguments are issues that should be dealt with in a trial and have no bearing on extradition.

There is also a possibility that Joe Biden may overturn the decision to prosecute Assange after Biden succeeds Trump as president later this month.

(REUTERS)