What’s at stake in the extradition of Julian Assange?

Today in Focus Series

After the UK home secretary decided to extradite Julian Assange to face trial and a possible life sentence in the US, Ben Quinn reports on what the ruling means for the WikiLeaks founder – and for press freedom

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Few public figures are harder to categorise than the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange. To his fans, he is a fearless truth-teller, exposing state wrongdoing; to many governments, he’s a dangerous fanatic akin to a “digital terrorist”.

But almost everyone will have read journalism based on leaks his organisation has published, whether it was the secrets files he revealed from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the decades of top-secret US diplomatic cables, details of the CIA’s hacking tools or the emails of the Democratic National Committee.

Over the past few years, Assange’s many enemies – chief among them, the US government – have started closing in. Now the UK’s home secretary, Priti Patel, has given the green light for his extradition to face charges of violating the Espionage Act, alleging that material he released endangered lives. He has 14 days to appeal against the decision, a move his team have said they would make.

The case is bigger than Assange. Civil liberties activists argue that the decision to extradite him is a grave threat to public interest journalism.

AUSTRALIA-RIGHTS-EXTRADITION-WIKILEAKS<br>People walk past a mural of Julian Assange in a Melbourne inner-city laneway on June 20, 2022. - Former Australian foreign minister Bob Carr on June 20 called for his country to demand the United States drop its prosecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. (Photo by William WEST / AFP) (Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)
Photograph: William West/AFP/Getty Images
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