US Agrees to Let Assange Do Time in Australia

British court hears assurances about WikiLeaks founder's possible imprisonment
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 27, 2021 6:14 PM CDT
WikiLeaks Founder Can Do Time in Australia, Court Told
Stella Moris, partner of Julian Assange, speaks Wednesday outside court in London.   (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

The US has tweaked its position on the potential imprisonment of Julian Assange in an effort to get a British court to allow his extradition. If he's convicted in the US, the WikiLeaks founder will be allowed to serve his sentence in an Australian prison, ABC Australia reports. The court had prevented Assange's extradition in January over mental health concerns: The judge ruled the prisoner might well commit suicide if he was held in harsh conditions in the US; government lawyers argued their appeal Wednesday in London.

To counter that argument, the lawyers also told the court that were Assange to be imprisoned in the US, he wouldn't be held at the Supermax prison in Colorado or face strict conditions. The court had noted the new US proposals over the summer when it agreed to hear the appeal. On Wednesday, the US argued against the assumption that Assange was a suicide risk, per the BBC, putting a University of Oxford psychiatrist on the stand. In court documents, Assange's lawyers discounted the US proposals and said he'd be at risk of suicide even while awaiting extradition.

They also noted that Australia had not said it would accept Assange as an inmate. "The prisoner transfer assurance … is meaningless," they wrote. His lawyers told the court Assange was unwell and wouldn't attend the hearing, though he later appeared on a video hookup. Supporters outside court demonstrated against extradition, Stella Moris, Assange's partner, addressed the crowd. "Julian should never be extradited because he was doing his job as a journalist," she said, adding that Assange has been "criminalized as a journalist." The US, Moris said, has abused its extradition agreement with Britain.

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A legal adviser for Amnesty International said diplomatic assurances like the ones the US made in court are unreliable, per ABC. "They're based on diplomatic relations between states, they're not legally binding under international law," Simon Crowther said. The US wants to try Assange on espionage charges and one count of computer misuse involving the leaking of classified documents about the Iraq war in 2010 and 2011. Conviction on all charges could bring a prison sentence as long as 175 years. (More Julian Assange extradition stories.)

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