WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has moved a step closer to facing criminal charges in the U.S. for one of the biggest ever leaks of classified information after Washington won an appeal over his extradition in an English court.

U.S. authorities accuse the Australia-born Mr. Assange of 18 counts relating to WikiLeaks’ release of vast troves of confidential U.S. military records and diplomatic cables which they said had put lives in danger. At the Royal Courts of Justice in London, the U.S. won an appeal against a ruling by a London district judge that Mr. Assange, 50, should not be extradited because he was likely to commit suicide in a U.S. prison.

On Friday, the  judge said he was satisfied with assurances given by the U.S. about conditions of Mr. Assange’s detention, including a pledge not to hold him in a maximum security prison in Colorado. Mr. Assange’s legal team will appeal the court’s decision to allow his extradition to the U.S., his fiancée Stella Morris said. “How can it be fair, how can it be right, how can it be possible, to extradite Julian to the very country which plotted to kill him?” she said. “We will appeal this decision at the earliest possible moment.”  


WikiLeaks came to prominence when it published a U.S. military video in 2010 showing a 2007 attack by Apache helicopters in Baghdad that killed a dozen people, including two Reuters news staffers. It then released thousands of secret classified files and diplomatic cables that laid bare often highly critical U.S. appraisals of world leaders from Russian President Vladimir Putin to members of the Saudi royal family.

Mr. Assange jumped bail and was offered refuge in 2012 by Ecuador’s then President Rafael Correa. He spent seven years holed up at the Embassy in London while British police spent millions of dollars watching for any sign that he would emerge. After relations with Ecuador soured, Mr. Assange was dragged out by the British police. When the district judge had blocked his extradition on medical grounds in January, an editorial in The Hindu had pointed out that “it’s ironic that the U.S., which takes pride in its freedoms and self-declared commitment to protecting human rights, is relentlessly pursuing a man who exposed some of the worst rights violations by the American military,” and that instead of accepting the mistakes committed by its military and ensuring steps to avoid the occurrence of such incidents, “the U.S. went after the messenger.” With Britain refusing to take a benign view of Mr. Assange’s cause, and allowing his extradition to the U.S., it becomes an important story of the day. (The Hindu)


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