Throughout the extradition attempts, WikiLeaks has repeatedly said that Assange is innocent.
Journalist and WikiLeaks founder
Net worth: $300,000
Julian Assange is an international journalist who founded WikiLeaks, a non-profit organization that publishes classified materials leaked by whistleblowers. Assange is facing extradition to the U.S. to face espionage charges surrounding the 2009–2010 publication of leaked U.S. military documents.
Wife: Stella Moris
Julian Assange faces 18 counts of espionage.
The U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel approved the request to extradite Assange to the U.S. and signed the order for extradition on Friday, June 17. In December, a British court ruled that Assange could be extradited to the U.S. He has been charged with 18 counts of violating the Espionage Act for obtaining and publishing secret government documents, The New York Times reports.
Assange has been in London’s Belmarsh prison since 2019. He spent seven years of asylum in the Ecuador Embassy in London until the Ecuadorean government suspended his citizenship and evicted him in 2019. Soon after, Assange was evicted from the embassy, the U.S. government indicted him for the 2009–2010 publication of classified military documents leaked by former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.
U.S. officials say that publishing the documents, which “contained the unredacted names of innocent people,” endangered the lives of those who provided information to the U.S. military, including local Afghans and Iraqis, journalists, religious leaders, human rights advocates, and political dissidents from repressive regimes.
The decision comes after a U.K. judge orginally denied the extradition request last year.
The U.S. has tried to get Assange extradited from the U.K. since July 2020. In January 2021, a London District Judge ruled that Assange shouldn’t be extradited because, due to his mental condition, he might commit suicide when subjected to harsh conditions in a U.S. prison. U.S. authorities appealed that decision.
Julian Assange’s legal team will appeal Patel's order.
The WikiLeaks founder's legal counsel said on June 17 that they will appeal the decision, similar to how they appealed the court decision in December. There's a chance that the case could be taken to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Assange's team plans on using "every appeal mechanism available."
Throughout the multiple extradition attempts, Assange’s wife, Stella Moris, has been highly vocal about her disapproval of her husband being extradited. In a televised interview last year, Moris said the U.S. was taking an “abusive, vindictive prosecution against a journalist.”
“Today is International Human Rights Day. What a shame. How cynical to have this decision on this day,” Moris said in a statement. “How can they accept an extradition to the country that plotted to kill Julian?”
“We will fight,” Moris said. “Julian represents the fundamentals of what it means to live in a free society, of what it means to have press freedom, of what it means for journalists to do their jobs without being afraid of spending the rest of their lives in prison.”
Moris met Assange in 2011, and the couple got engaged in 2017. They have two children who were born while Assange was inside the Ecuadorean embassy. In November, Assange was granted permission to marry Moris while he was still in the London Belmarsh prison.
Where is whistleblower Chelsea Manning?
Manning, the whistleblower who leaked the U.S. military documents that WikiLeaks printed, was convicted in 2013 of violating the Espionage Act. She was sentenced to 35 years in prison, the longest punishment ever imposed on a whistleblower. As a transgender woman incarcerated in men’s prison, Manning tried to commit suicide twice, The New York Times reports. In 2017, after serving seven years in prison, Manning’s sentence was commuted by then-President Barack Obama.