WikiLeaks chief slams Assange court case as 'rigged'

WikiLeaks chief slams Assange court case as ‘rigged’

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WikiLeaks’ editor-in-chief said Wednesday that British legal proceedings regarding the extradition to the United States of Julian Assange were “corrupt” and “rigged”, ahead of a key hearing next week.

The High Court in London has asked the US government to provide further “assurances” on Assange’s treatment if he was sent there to face charges over WikiLeaks’ 2010 release of secret military and diplomatic files.

It is due to hold a hearing on Monday and a decision on whether or not to grant Assange a new appeal could be made the same day or at a later date.

Washington has spent years trying to extradite the 52-year-old Australian citizen to stand trial for the release of hundreds of thousands of classified documents relating to the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He faces up to 175 years in prison if convicted in the United States.

“It is abundantly clear of course that the process in the court in the United Kingdom is corrupt. The case is rigged against Julian,” Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks’ editor-in-chief, told reporters in London.

“I know these are harsh words and words that we usually have for courts in non-European countries, not Western countries. But I’ve come to the opinion that that is absolutely the case,” he added.

Assange has suffered a string of court losses in the long-running legal saga, which his supporters see as a battle for media freedom.

UK judges in March asked Washington to allay concerns that Assange’s trial would be prejudiced because he is not a US citizen and that he could face the death penalty if convicted.

Assange’s wife, Stella Assange, said last month that the United States had issued “a non-assurance in relation to the First Amendment”, which protects freedom of speech, and “a standard assurance in relation to the death penalty”.

She told a news conference on Wednesday that she hopes her husband will be present at the hearing but added that she did not think the judges will rule in his favour.

“I don’t expect a rational outcome from the courts, I’m afraid to say,” she said.

Assange has been held at a high-security prison in southeast London since 2019.

Before going to prison, Assange spent seven years holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faced accusations of sexual assault which were later dropped.

The United States indicted Assange multiple times between 2018 and 2020 but President Joe Biden has faced persistent domestic and international pressure to drop the case filed under his predecessor Donald Trump.

Major media organisations, press freedom advocates and the Australian parliament have all denounced the prosecution under the 1917 Espionage Act, which has never been used over the publishing of classified information.

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