Julian Assange’s legal torment has gone on long enough

The British High Court’s decision to unblock the process of extraditing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States to face espionage charges has reopened the debate over whether Australia should play a role. more active role in this long-standing affair.

Lord Justice Holroyde has overturned a previous judge’s ruling that Mr Assange should not be deported due to the high risk he could kill himself in a US prison. Lord Holroyde accepted American assurances that he would guarantee Mr Assange’s safety.

The move is yet another blow to Mr Assange, who has already spent nearly a decade in prison or locked up at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. He fought against extradition to Sweden for sexual assault – which was abandoned in 2019 – then extradition to the United States for having published in 2010 the contents of American military and diplomatic cables.

He is now awaiting a decision from the British government on whether to proceed with the extradition. If sent to the United States for trial, he could face years of additional legal uncertainty.

the Herald has previously expressed concern about the recklessness of Mr. Assange’s disclosure of identifying details from confidential diplomatic cables and we recognize that there is a debate to be had as to whether the public interest indisputable for the documents he leaked on the conduct of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq outweighed the potential harm to individuals.

The Obama administration anathematized Mr. Assange, but declined to indict him because it feared the case would threaten the rights of journalists. It was Donald Trump who officially launched the case in 2017. Mr. Assange would not have directly stolen classified information, but rather indicated to Chelsea Manning, an American intelligence officer, how to avoid being detected by him. doing. Many investigative journalists offer advice of a similar nature to whistleblowers.

While the Herald understands the need to protect classified information and that UK courts have ruled that his actions were not purely journalistic, it is difficult to see what there is to be gained by continuing this case to a final conclusion.

At a time when US President Joe Biden has just held a summit for democracy, it seems contradictory to go so far to win a case which, if successful, will limit freedom of expression.

The conduct of the trial also poses a threat to the reputation of the United States, as it could refocus attention on the horrific incidents during the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that have been exposed by WikiLeaks.

Even those who think Mr. Assange deserves punishment for his actions should admit that he has already paid a very high price. The struggle has clearly taken its toll on his mental and physical health. Over the weekend, Mr Assange’s family said he suffered a stroke.

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