Washington, D.C., February 21, 2020 — The United Kingdom should not extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to face espionage charges in the United States, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
On February 24, a London court will open the first phase of Assange’s extradition hearing, which is scheduled to last one week and focus on whether the extradition request is politically motivated; the second phase will begin May 18, according to Reuters. The extradition treaty between the U.S. and U.K. does not allow for extradition in the case of “political” offenses.
“The extradition of Julian Assange to the United States to stand trial for his groundbreaking work with WikiLeaks would deal a body blow to First Amendment rights and press freedom. The U.K. should deny this request,” said CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney in New York. “Using the draconian wartime powers of the Espionage Act against Assange undermines journalists’ rights and sets dangerous precedents that cast journalists and publishers as criminals.”
If extradited and convicted in the United States, Assange faces up to 175 years in prison: 10 years for each of the 17 charges filed under the Espionage Act, and five years for a Computer Fraud and Abuse Act violation, according to Barry Pollack, one of Assange’s lawyers.