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Ruling due on US appeal to Assange extradition refusal

The court recently heard the appeal against a lower court decision that refused to extradite the journalist to face charges over leaked classified US documents.

In the original ruling, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser stated that she could not approve the extradition as it would be “oppressive” to do so when Assange is at risk of mental health deterioration and suicide in US custody.

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The US government has sought to alleviate the British judicial system’s concerns by claiming Assange will not be held in isolation at a supermax federal prison if he is extradited. However, Assange’s lawyers have continued to warn that he is a suicide risk if detained by the US, as well as raising concerns at the “trustworthiness” of America’s guarantees. 

Pointing to reports that the CIA had plotted to kidnap Assange and poison him while he was claiming asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Mark Summers, a barrister representing the journalist, said that US intelligence agencies have an “obsession” with his client.

Initial estimates presented by Assange’s team during the court case stated that, if convicted on the charges the US has floated, he could face up to 175 years in prison. However, the US government refuted that, arguing it’s hard to put an exact number on it at this stage and any sentence could be significantly shorter.

While the two judges overseeing the appeal have not yet indicated how they might rule, as the hearings came to an end in October one of those present, Lord Chief Justice Ian Burnett, told both parties “you’ve give us much to think about.”

The US is seeking to extradite Assange over the publication of thousands of classified documents released by WikiLeaks between 2010 and 2011. The publications revealed information about the actions of the US and its allies during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, including claims that the US military killed hundreds of Afghan civilians and 66,000 non-combatants in Iraq, as well as accusing Iraqi forces of torturing prisoners.

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