By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
The High Court in London overturned a lower court ruling that found him mentally too fragile to withstand the American criminal justice system.
It meant a legal victory for the U.S. government, which has appealed the earlier ruling. Judge Timothy Holroyde said Friday that the court “allows the appeal.”
Britain’s home secretary, who oversees law enforcement, will make the final decision on whether to extradite Assange.
The decision deals a significant blow to the WikiLeaks co-founder’s efforts to prevent his extradition, but his fiancee immediately indicated that an appeal would be launched.
Stella Moris, Julian Assange’s fiancee, also described the high court’s ruling as “dangerous and misguided” and a “grave miscarriage of justice.”
“How can it be fair, how can it be right, how can it be possible, to extradite Julian to the very country which plotted to kill him?” she said.
Assange, who was not permitted to attend the hearing in person, is wanted by U.S. authorities over the publication of hundreds of thousands of classified military documents and diplomatic cables in 2010 and 2011.
The 50-year-old Australian journalist and publisher face criminal charges in the U.S., including breaking a spying law and conspiring to hack government computers.
U.S. authorities claim his actions put lives in danger and accuse him of 18 counts, meaning he faces a 175-year prison sentence.
Over the years, Assange has won journalism awards, including The Economist’s New Media Award in 2008 and the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism in 2011.
Assange spent most of the last decade in confinement. It started in 2012 when he holed himself up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
He went to Ecuador after he lost a British Supreme Court appeal of his extradition to Sweden, where authorities wanted to question him about rape allegations.
While the Swedish case was subsequently dropped, Assange was evicted from the embassy in April 2019 and arrested for skipping bail in Britain.
He was sentenced to 50 weeks in prison and is still being detained.
Assange founded WikiLeaks in 2006 to publish news leaks and classified information provided by anonymous sources.
In April of that year, it released a graphic decrypted video from Iraq. In July, it published a six-year archive of classified military documents about the war in Afghanistan.
The group released a second cache of confidential reports, this time about the Iraq war, in October. The following month it published a quarter-million secret American diplomatic cables that offered a rare look at back-room bargaining.
Army investigators suspected that the source of at least some crucial leaks was Chelsea Manning, who was then serving as an enlisted soldier.
Private Manning was court-martialed in June 2010, and in August 2013, she was sentenced to 35 years in prison for passing information to WikiLeaks. President Barack Obama commuted her sentence at the end of his second term, and she was released in May 2017.
Critics say that later Wikileaks gradually shifted its focus to releasing material that benefits Russia. Assange became a problem for then-President Barack Obama’s administration, releasing embarrassing documents from the United States and other countries.
Later, Donald J. Trump, during his successful presidential campaign, expressed glee over WikiLeaks’ release of confidential emails from his rival Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee.
Some American officials said the emails had been given to WikiLeaks by hackers working for Russian intelligence, but Trump supporters said they revealed wrongdoing by the Democrats.
Amid the turmoil, rights group Amnesty International expressed concerns about the legal steps against Assange, calling it an affront to press freedom.
Amnesty International said the charges against Assange are “politically motivated” and should be dropped.
It added that the “assurances” that the U.S. has offered “leave Mr. Assange at risk of ill-treatment” are “inherently unreliable” and “should be rejected.”
The assurances are “discredited by their admission that they reserved the right to reverse those guarantees,” the group stressed.
Editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, Kristinn Hrafnsson, agreed saying: “Julian’s life is once more under grave threat.
And so is the right of journalists to publish material that governments and corporations find inconvenient.
Hrafnsson added: “This is about the right of a free press to publish without being threatened by a bullying superpower.”
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