Julian Assange's long fight against extradition

Julian Assange's long fight against extradition

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Credit: AFP File Photo

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has fought a long-running battle to avoid extradition to the United States for publishing classified documents.

The latest chapter starts at the High Court of England and Wales on Wednesday, when the US government appeals against a refusal by a London court in January to send him for trial.

In one of the biggest leaks ever, Assange's WikiLeaks whistleblowing website releases 470,000 classified US military documents between July and October 2010 relating to US diplomacy and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It later releases another batch of more than 250,000 classified US diplomatic cables.

Also Read | US tries again to extradite Wikileaks' Assange from Britain

In November, a Swedish prosecutor issues a European arrest warrant for Assange over sexual assault allegations involving two women.

He denies the claims, saying they had consensual sex.

But he is arrested in London in December and released on bail a week later.

In February 2011 a British judge rules that Assange can be extradited to Sweden.

Also Read | Ecuadorian court revokes citizenship for Julian Assange

He launches an appeal, claiming the Swedish allegations are a pretext to transfer him to the United States.

In June 2012 Assange takes refuge in Ecuador's London embassy. Then ruled by left-wing president Rafael Correa, the South American country grants him asylum in August.

In May 2017, Swedish prosecutors drop the sex assault investigation.

In December, Ecuador grants Assange nationality but is blocked by Britain from according him diplomatic status.

Ecuador — now ruled by right-wing President Lenin Moreno and keen to court favour with Washington — says hosting Assange has become "untenable" in January 2018.

Tensions peak in April 2019 when Moreno says Assange has "repeatedly violated" his asylum conditions.

Ecuador revokes his citizenship on April 10.

The next day, British police drag him out of the embassy on a US extradition request.

In May, Assange is sentenced to 50 weeks in the high-security Belmarsh prison in southeast London for having breached bail in 2010.

The US formally charges Assange on May 23 with violating the US Espionage Act by publishing military and diplomatic secrets.

UN rights experts Nils Melzer says Assange had been subjected to drawn-out "psychological torture" that has seriously affected his health.

He makes his first appearance since being jailed on June 15, telling a court via video link that WikiLeaks is "nothing but a publisher".

In subsequent appearances, he appears frail and confused.

On November 19, Swedish prosecutors say they have dropped the rape case because "the evidence is not strong enough".

A London court starts hearing the US extradition request on February 24, 2020, but it is later postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In early July around 40 NGOs call for Assange's release.

On January 4, 2021, an Old Bailey judge rejects the extradition. The US submits grounds to appeal and takes the case to the High Court.

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