Guy Faulconbridge and Michael Holden –
British police dragged Julian Assange from the Ecuadorean embassy last Thursday after his asylum was revoked, ending his seven-year stay there and opening the way for his extradition to the United States.
Assange’s supporters, who cast him as a dissident facing the wrath of a superpower, fear the 47-year-old will end up on trial in the United States. The United States wants Assange for one of the largest compromises of classified information in US history.
Assange was born on July 3, 1971 in Australia. In his teens, he gained a reputation as a talented computer programmer and in the mid-1990s he was arrested and pleaded guilty to hacking. He founded WikiLeaks in 2006. He shot to fame in early 2010 when WikiLeaks published a classified US military video showing a 2007 attack by Apache helicopters in Baghdad that killed a dozen people, including two Reuters news staff.
WikiLeaks published hundreds of thousands of secret US diplomatic cables that laid bare often critical US appraisals of world leaders, from Russian President Vladimir Putin to many. Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in June 2012 to avoid being extradited to Sweden, where authorities wanted to question him as part of a preliminary assault investigation.
That investigation was later dropped but because he had breached his British bail in 2012, he was arrested last week and found guilty of failing to surrender to Westminster Magistrates’ Court.
Following his arrest, US prosecutors announced charges against him and Swedish prosecutors are considering reopening the investigation.
Westminster Magistrates’ Court’s Judge Michael Snow said Assange faces up to 12 months in jail when he is sentenced at a later date at Southwark Crown Court.
The British criminal action against Assange will take precedence over extradition proceedings although Nick Vamos, lawyer at London-based firm Peters & Peters and former head of extradition at Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service, said in practice it would make little difference.
“Even if he gets a maximum 12-month sentence, that means he will serve six and it will take at least six months for his extradition proceedings to be resolved,” Vamos said.
So while he is in custody, the extradition hearings can proceed. The British judge gave the US government a deadline of June 12 to outline its case against Assange.
The courts will have to rule on any extradition request and Home Secretary Sajid Javid would decide which one takes precedence. Vamos said the home secretary would take into account the seriousness of the offence and which request was issued first, and expected a Swedish one would take supremacy.
“Even though technically it would be a re-issued request, in effect it would be just a repeat of the request that was issued many years ago and therefore it would be treated as if it was the earliest one,” he said.
“The fact that his extradition had already been ordered on it once would be in the home secretary’s mind. The US government can wait a bit longer, they’ve taken quite a long time to sort out whether they were ever going to charge him or not.
“We don’t know what happened in Sweden, we don’t whether he committed that offence and there’s a victim there who’s been waiting for justice for
many years and I think that should take priority.”
Just hours after Assange’s arrest, US prosecutors announced charges against him for conspiring with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to gain access to a government computer.
The indictment, filed in March 2018 and unsealed on Thursday, said Assange in March 2010 engaged in a conspiracy to help Manning crack a password stored on Defence Department computers connected to the Secret Internet Protocol Network (SIPRNet), a US government network used for classified documents and communications.
Guy Faulconbridge and Michael Holden –