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Julian Assange: where is WikiLeaks founder being held and what happens if he is extradited to the US?

Assange will be extradited to the US, where he faces life in prison on charges of espionage

The Wikileaks founder Julian Assange will be extradited to America on charges of espionage, after the Home Office confirmed Priti Patel has signed the order.

Assange, who has been in prison at Belmarsh since 2019, had found a lenghty court battle, to avoid being sent to the US, where he faces life in jail.

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In 2012, he sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, to avoid being extradited to Sweden where he faced sexual assault allegations.

The Australian citizen has always denied the charges against him, claiming they were politically motivated and would see him sent to the US.

His supporters see his extradition as an attack on freedom of speech.

Here’s everything you need to know about Julian Assange and what happens if he is extradited.

Who is Julian Assange?

Assange is an Australian editor and activist who founded the online publication WikiLeaks in 2006.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks from the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy in 2016 (Pic: Getty Images)

The 50-year-old made headlines around the world in 2010, when he published leaked documents from US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.

In 2010 Sweden issued an arrest warrant for him over allegations of sexual assault.

To avoid extradition to Sweden Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2012.

He claimed the charges against him were “a pretext” so that he could be extradited to the US.

After seven years, he was eventually removed from the embassy after disputes with Ecuadorian authorities and subsequently arrested.

During his time in the embassy, Assange started a relationship with Stella Morris, the pair went on to have two children and married in a prison ceremony in March 2022.

Where is Julian Assange being held?

Assange is currently being held in the high security Belmarsh Prison in London.

He has been imprisoned at Belmarsh since police removed him from the Ecuadorian embassy in 2019.

Why is Julian Assange wanted by the US?

Assange is wanted by the US for charges of espionage over his role with the online publication WikiLeaks.

Chelsea Manning speaks during the C2 conference in Montreal, Quebec, 2018 (Pic: AFP via Getty Images)

In 2010, WikiLeaks published leaked documents from US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.

This intelligence included Afghanistan war logs, Iraq war logs and drone strike footage.

In total, over 750,000 sensitive documents were leaked online.

This information shed light on US atrocities that were being committed by US forces in the Afghanistan and Iraq war.

For her role in the leak, Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison, however, in 2017, former President Barack Obama commuted her sentence to seven years in confinement and she was released from prison.

What happens if Julian Assange is extradited to the US?

If Assange is extradited to the US, he will face a sentence of life imprisonment.

The 50-year-old now has two weeks to appeal the ruling and could still take his case to the UK Supreme Court.

In a statement Wikileaks called the news “a dark day for press freedom and British democracy”.

In a post on Twitter they confirmed the decision would be appealed saying: “Today is not the end of the fight. It is only the beginning of a new legal battle. We will appeal through the legal system.”

Assange’s lawyers have argued that he would be subjected to conditions akin to torture in a US jail.

They have requested the extradition is blocked as it puts him at risk of suicide.

What has the UK Government said?

However, the UK Government has denied this.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Home Office said: “On 17 June, following consideration by both the Magistrates Court and High Court, the extradition of Mr Julian Assange to the US was ordered. Mr Assange retains the normal 14-day right to appeal.

“In this case, the UK courts have not found that it would be oppressive, unjust or an abuse of process to extradite Mr Assange.

“Nor have they found that extradition would be incompatible with his human rights, including his right to a fair trial and to freedom of expression, and that whilst in the US he will be treated appropriately, including in relation to his health.”