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News > United Kingdom

Press Freedom On Trial With Assange, Ruling Expected

  • Protest at the UK embassy in Washington DC demands the release of Assange, a day before the extradition verdict. January 3, 2021.

    Protest at the UK embassy in Washington DC demands the release of Assange, a day before the extradition verdict. January 3, 2021. | Photo: Twitter / @HelenaVillarRT

Published 3 January 2021

District judge Vanessa Baraitser rules Julian Assange's extradition to the United States for exposing war crimes and human rights abuses.

Journalism and press freedom will be tried along with Julian Assange as he prepares to receive the verdict on his extradition to the United States where he faces a 175 years sentence for his work exposing war crimes and human rights abuses.


On How Julian Assange Is Made Invisible

Assange faces 17 charges for receiving, possessing and disclosing classified documents related to the national defence, and one charge for computer misuse under the Espionage Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. 

Editor-in-Chief of Wikileaks Kristinn Hrafnsson has said, “The mere fact that this case has made it to court let alone gone on this long is an historic, large-scale attack on freedom of speech. The US Government should listen to the groundswell of support coming from the mainstream media editorials, NGOs around the world such as Amnesty and Reporters Without Borders and the United Nations who are all calling for these charges to be dropped. This is a fight that affects each and every person’s right to know and is being fought collectively.”

Judge Vanessa Baraitser will announce her decision on the United States' request to extradite Assange at 10am on Monday, January 4th, at the Old Bailey in London where he’ll be transferred from Belmarsh prison.

The defendant is expected to arrive at court just before 9am. His partner, Stella Moris will be attending in person and a gathering of supporters are expected outside the courthouse. Those who have come to Assange’s defense argue that this case is about turning necessary journalism and the publication of true information into crimes, setting a precedent which could be used against journalists everywhere.

Held at Belmarsh for 20 months, Assange was expelled from Ecuador’s embassy in London as part of an agreement between President Lenin Moreno and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, in exchange for a "miserable loan from the International Monetary Fund,” according to the former Minister of Foreign Affairs under Rafael Correa presidency, Ricardo Patiño.

The extradition hearing began in February 2020 and concluded in October. Assange’s lawyers have reported considerable difficulty communicating with their client and the arbitrarily detained journalist had not seen his lawyers for six months prior to proceedings when they restarted in September.

In the United States, journalists and personalities took to social media during the month of December to appeal to Donald Trump for a presidential pardon of Assange. On Sunday, a protest was held at the UK embassy in Washington DC demanding the release of the Wikileaks editor, attended by advocates of access to information and press freedom.

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