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Dark day for press freedom as Priti Patel approves Julian Assange extradition

Sunday 19 June 2022, by siawi3



Dark day for press freedom as Priti Patel approves Julian Assange extradition

Photo: Julian Assange gives a speech from the Embassy

Joe Glenton

17th June 2022

Home secretary Priti Patel has approved the US extradition request for journalist and Wikileaks editor Julian Assange. The Australian national, whose work on massive Iraq and Afghanistan war leaks earned him the ire of Western leaders, has been held in Belmarsh prison since 2019. Before that, he had been living in the the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012.

Press organisations and allies of Assange called the decision a dark day for press freedom around the world.

His own organisation, Wikileaks, condemned the decision immediately:

And UK investigative outfit Declassified UK re-shared their graph on the connections between what they consider anti-Assange figures involved in his years-long extradition process:

In a statement, the US media freedom organisation Freedom of the Press said:

By continuing to extradite Assange, the Biden DOJ is ignoring the dire warnings of virtually every major civil liberties and human rights organization in the country that the case will do irreparable damage to basic press freedom rights of U.S. reporters.


Legendary reporter John Pilger, a stalwart ally of Assange, said Patel had condemned the Wikileaks founder to “an American hellhole”:

Some MPs voiced their opposition to the decision, pointing out that Assange had exposed western crimes carried out during wars in the Middle East:

Meanwhile US journalist Kevin Gozstola, who closely covered the Assange extradition proceedings, warned that press freedom was diminishing all over the world with the decision:

Mainstream concerns

And even mainstream journalists like John Simpson added their voices, warning that the implications of the decision would have far-reaching consequences for journalists everywhere:

A former UN expert on global democracy and equity said the extradition evidenced “the breakdown of the rule of law in the UK”:

Moreover, journalist Matt Kennard tweeted a screenshot of the famous Collateral Murder video. The leaked film showing a US helicopter murdering civilians, including civilians in Iraq, was one of Wikileaks’s most powerful exposes:

Assange’s wife Stella Morris said:

He is a journalist and a publisher, and he is being punished for doing his job

Wikileaks confirmed they would appeal against the extradition. Powerful forces are aligned against Assange, and many journalists must worry for their own safety. Especially when they see other reporters treated in this way by two ostensibly democratic states like the UK and US.



Assange extradition, Britain, Legal, WikiLeaks
Home Secretary Signs Assange Extradition Order

June 17, 2022

The imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher can now appeal her decision to the High Court, as well as the points of law he lost when the magistrate’s court initially blocked the extradition.

Photos: Assange: Simon Dawson, Reuters. Patel: Alamy Stock Photo. Collage by Cathy Vogan under Fair Use terms.

By Joe Lauria
in London
Special to Consortium News

British Home Secretary Priti Patel on Friday signed an extradition order to send Julian Assange to stand trial in America.

WikiLeaks called it a “dark day for press freedom” and said “the decision will be appealed.”

Legal Road Ahead

The extradition order landed on Patel’s desk after the U.K. Supreme Court refused to hear Assange’s appeal against a High Court victory for the United States.

The U.S. had appealed a magistrate court’s decision in January last year not to extradite Assange because it would be oppressive to do so based on Assange’s health and the dire conditions of U.S. solitary confinement. The High Court decided in favor of the U.S. based solely on Washington’s conditional diplomatic “assurances” that it would treat Assange humanely.

Assange still has legal options left. He can appeal Patel’s decision to the High Court. He can also launch a “cross” appeal to the High Court. The court could deny both applications for appeal. Though he won in magistrate’s court on health grounds and the condition of U.S. prisons, the judge in that court ruled on every other point of law in Washington’s favor.

Judge Vanessa Baraitser denied that the case was a political offense in violation of the U.S.-U.K. extradition treaty; that it violated the U.S. first amendment and threatened press freedom; and that Assange’s rights to due process were violated when it was revealed that the C.I.A. had spied on privileged conversations with his lawyers and she ignored testimony that the C.I.A. had discussed kidnapping or poisoning Assange.

“The judges will have all the other elements, the important elements, that were discussed by the magistrate’s court but disregarded by the High Court [in October] because it was not the appeal point,” WikiLeaks Editor Kristinn Hrafnsson told Consortium News last month. The U.S. appeal was only about Assange’s health and U.S. prison conditions and Washington won because it convinced the judges of the credibility of its conditional assurances to treat Assange humanely.

Since Baraitser’s Jan. 4, 2021 decision, other facts have emerged that could form part of the cross appeal. The C.I.A. plot against Assange was further corroborated by U.S. officials in a Yahoo! News report. A key U.S. witness on computer charges against Assange recanted his testimony. And Assange’s health has further deteriorated when he suffered a mini-stroke last October.

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former U.N. correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and numerous other newspapers, including The Montreal Gazette and The Star of Johannesburg. He was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London, a financial reporter for Bloomberg News and began his professional work as a 19-year old stringer for The New York Times.