Julian Assange Is Running Out of Options

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Assange’s legal team has 14 days to appeal, according to the Home Office. His next step, now that the defense’s argument based on Assange’s suicide risk has been rejected, would likely be to focus on the other arguments his team has made against extradition, such as the threat it poses to press freedom and the political bias against Assange from United States law enforcement, given that Assange has been a thorn in the side of the US executive branch for over a decade.

“I think there’s a lot of roads to run here,” says Naomi Colvin, UK/ Ireland director at the advocacy group Blueprint for Free Speech. She points out that even if these additional arguments fail to sway the UK judicial system, Assange can also appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, arguing that extradition would violate the UK’s commitment to human rights treaties. In yet another option, Assange’s team could demand a judicial review that would challenge the political side of Patel’s decision specifically, Colvin adds.

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Assange has faced charges in the United States since April of 2019, when the US Department of Justice indicted him for hacking crimes: He was accused of conspiring with Manning to steal Department of Defense secrets. That initial indictment centered on accusations that Assange had actively helped the young private crack a password in order to gain access to a restricted part of a military network—a carefully crafted charge that seemed designed to distinguish Assange from traditional journalists and brand him instead as a cybercriminal.

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Just a month later, however, the Justice Department veered into a more aggressive strategy, unsealing a superseding indictment against Assange that accused him of violating the Espionage Act, a 100-year-old law against publishing classified information. That new charge had already been levied against leakers like Manning and Edward Snowden, but using it against a journalist like Assange—a recipient and publisher of classified leaks rather than a source of them—represented a new and highly controversial move for US law enforcement.

​​“For the first time in the history of our country, the government has brought criminal charges against a publisher for the publication of truthful information,” Ben Wizner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, told WIRED at the time. “This is an extraordinary escalation of the Trump administration’s attacks on journalism and a direct assault on the First Amendment.”

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