Julian Assange extradition to US delayed by UK court

A British court ruled that Julian Assange cannot be extradited to the United States on espionage charges unless the U.S. assures he won't face the death penalty, the Associated Press reported on Tuesday. 

This gives Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, a partial victory in his legal battle over the publication of classified American documents.

Judges stated that Assange would be granted a new appeal if the U.S. provided additional assurances within three weeks regarding his treatment. 

Consequently, the legal proceedings, ongoing for over a decade, will persist, and Assange will remain in Belmarsh Prison in London.

Judges Victoria Sharp and Jeremy Johnson emphasized that the U.S. must ensure Assange, an Australian citizen, receives the same First Amendment protections as a U.S. citizen and is not subjected to the death penalty.

They indicated that a final decision on the appeal will be made after considering any new assurances from the U.S. The court scheduled a hearing for May 20 if such submissions are provided.

The U.S. Justice Department declined to comment on the ruling.

Who is Julian Assange

Assange, initially known as a computer programmer, faced legal trouble when he pleaded guilty to hacking in 1995. Despite being fined, he avoided prison time. Subsequently, he pursued higher education at Melbourne University, focusing on mathematics and physics, according to Reuters.


Wikileaks founder Julian Assange appears at Belmarsh Magistrates court on January 11, 2011 in London, England.

In 2006, Assange founded WikiLeaks, a website renowned for its disclosure of classified and confidential documents. The site gained significant attention in April 2010 after releasing a classified video depicting a 2007 U.S. helicopter attack in Baghdad, resulting in the deaths of twelve individuals, as reported by Reuters. Additionally, WikiLeaks published thousands of U.S. classified documents in 2010.

In 2022, the British government ordered Assange to face spying charges.

What did he publish?

American prosecutors accused Assange of helping former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal classified diplomatic cables and military files that WikiLeaks later leaked in 2010. 

The site released 90,000 classified U.S. military documents on the war in Afghanistan, and roughly 400,000 secret U.S. files on the Iraq war. The two leaks were the largest security breaches of their kind in U.S. military history, according to Reuters. 

Manning served seven years in a military prison for leaking hundreds of thousands of messages and cables to WikiLeaks, before being released on the order of then-President Barack Obama.

In 2022, Assange’s attorney Jennifer Robinson asked President Joe Biden to drop the charges brought against Assange during Donald Trump’s presidency, arguing they posed a "grave threat" to free speech.

Assange’s lawyers say he could face up to 175 years in jail if he is convicted in the U.S., though American authorities have said any sentence is likely to be much lower than that, the AP noted. 

The Associated Press and Daniel Miller contributed to this report. It was reported from Los Angeles.