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Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder, given chance to appeal against U.S. extradition by U.K. court

Breaking down the Assange extradition saga
Breaking down the Julian Assange extradition saga 02:24

London — A U.K. court has ruled that Julian Assange will not be immediately extradited to face charges in the United States, giving the U.S. government three weeks to "offer assurances" that the American justice system will abide by several specific tenets in its handling of the WikiLeaks founder's case.

The British court said Assange "has a real prospect of success on 3 of the 9 grounds of appeal" he has argued. Specifically, the court demanded that U.S. justice officials confirm he will be "permitted to rely on the First Amendment to the United States Constitution (which protects free speech), that he is not prejudiced at trial (including sentence) by reason of his nationality, that he is afforded the same First Amendment protections as a United States citizen and that the death penalty is not imposed."

The court said that if those U.S. government assurances are not given within the three week timeframe, Assange will be granted leave appeal in the U.K. If the assurances are given, there will be another U.K. court hearing on May 20 to make a final decision on granting Assange leave to appeal.

"Mr. Assange will not, therefore, be extradited immediately," the court said in its judgment on Tuesday. 

Britain Assange
Buildings are reflected in the window as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is taken from court, where he appeared on charges of jumping British bail, in London, May 1, 2019. Matt Dunham/AP

This is the final appeal option available to Assange in U.K. courts. 

He can, however, if the appeals process in the U.K. is exhausted, file an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights to consider his case. That court could order the U.K. not to extradite him as it deliberates. An appeal to the European Court of Human Rights would be Assange's final option to try to prevent his extradition to the U.S.

Assange has been imprisoned for almost five years in the U.K., and spent many years before that avoiding U.K. authorities by holing himself up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

If extradited to the U.S., Assange faces a potential 175 years in prison for publishing classified information about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq on the WikiLeaks website.

What are the U.S. charges against Assange?

WikiLeaks published thousands of leaked documents, many relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Assange is alleged to have conspired to obtain and disclose sensitive U.S. national defense information.

In 2019, a federal grand jury in Virginia indicted Assange on 18 charges over the publication of classified documents. The charges include 17 counts of espionage and one charge of computer intrusion. Assange could face up to 10 years in prison for every count of espionage he's convicted of, and five years for the computer intrusion charge, according to the Department of Justice. 

In a statement, the U.S. Department of Justice said Assange was complicit in the actions of Chelsea Manning, a former U.S. Army intelligence analyst, in "unlawfully obtaining and disclosing classified documents related to the national defense."

Assange denies any wrongdoing, and his lawyer says his life is at risk if he is extradited to the U.S.

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