Julian Assange: US assurances on free speech and death penalty pave way for extradition

WikiLeaks founder’s lawyers describe guarantees from US government as not ‘worth the paper they’re written on’

The United States has provided assurances requested by the high court in London to pave the way for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to be extradited from Britain, a spokesperson for his wife confirmed on Tuesday.

Last month, the court ruled that, without certain US guarantees, Mr Assange (52), would be allowed to launch a new appeal against his extradition to face 18 charges, all bar one under the US’s Espionage Act, over WikiLeaks’s release of confidential US military records and diplomatic cables.

Those assurances – that in a US trial he could rely on the first amendment right to free speech and that there was no prospect of new charges that could see the death penalty being imposed – have now been submitted by a deadline which fell on Tuesday, the campaign team fighting his extradition confirmed.

There will now be a court hearing on May 20th. His lawyers have already described US assurances given in previous cases as not “worth the paper they’re written on”.


Mr Assange’s wife Stella, whom he married while in prison in London, said in a statement the US guarantees did not satisfy their concerns, describing them as “blatant weasel words”.

“The United States has issued a non-assurance in relation to the first amendment, and a standard assurance in relation to the death penalty,” she said.

“The diplomatic note does nothing to relieve our family’s extreme distress about his future – his grim expectation of spending the rest of his life in isolation in US prison for publishing award-winning journalism.”

There was no immediate comment from the US Department of Justice or a court spokesperson.

Last week, US president Joe Biden said he was considering a request from Australia to drop the prosecution, which Mr Assange’s US lawyer described as “encouraging”.

It was not clear what influence, if any, Mr Biden could exert on a criminal case, but the Wall Street Journal has also reported that discussions are under way about a potential plea bargaining deal.

Mr Assange has spent more than 13 years in various legal battles in the English courts since he was first arrested in November 2010.

To his supporters, he is an anti-establishment hero who is being persecuted for exposing US wrongdoing and details of alleged war crimes in secret, classified files.

The US authorities argue he is not being prosecuted for the publication of the leaked materials, but for the criminal act of conspiring with former US army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to unlawfully obtain them. – Reuters