Wife Says Julian Assange Won't Survive Extradition

Hearing this week 'will determine if he lives or dies, essentially,' says Stella Assange
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 19, 2024 1:25 PM CST
Wife Says Julian Assange Won't Survive Extradition
Stella Assange, wife of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, attends a news conference ahead of Julian Assange's final UK appeal hearing, in London, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024.   (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

A hearing at the High Court of Justice in London over two days starting Tuesday could be Julian Assange's last chance to avoid extradition—and his wife says it could be the last chance to save his life. Stella Assange tells the BBC that the WikiLeaks founder, who has been held in the maximum-security Belmarsh Prison since 2019, is very weak both physically and mentally from stress and wouldn't survive extradition to the US, where he could face a maximum sentence of 175 years under the Espionage Act. "This case will determine if he lives or dies, essentially," she says.

She says there's no chance for further appeal "in this jurisdiction" if he loses the High Court case, though an emergency injunction from the European Court of Human Rights could be a possibility. If Assange loses this week, he could be transferred to the US before the European court can act—but if he loses, the government could drag out the case further, the AP reports. "This procedure has been marked by prolonged and creeping time frames," says Wikileaks Editor-in-Chief Kristinn Hrafnsson. "We call it punishment through process. It is obviously a deliberate attempt to wear him down to punish him by taking this long."

Assange, an Australian citizen, is charged with releasing classified US military documents. The Australian government has asked the US to drop the prosecution, as have US lawmakers as diverse as Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Marjorie Taylor Greene. Journalist James Ball, a former WikiLeaks colleague, tells the Guardian that the "attempt to punish Assange for exposing the truth is an attack on journalism itself" and he has resisted pressure to cooperate with the FBI. He adds: "I notice that none of those mainstream collaborators who published his material—the New York Times, the Guardian, and Der Spiegel—are being pursued, which demonstrates that a generational bias against internet-based journalism is at the heart of the case." (More Julian Assange stories.)

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