A judge in London plans to rule on Monday whether Britain should extradite Julian Assange to the United States, where the WikiLeaks founder faces charges of conspiring to hack government computers and violating the Espionage Act by obtaining and releasing confidential documents in 2010 and 2011.A ruling in favor of the U.S. extradition request could pave the way for a high-stakes trial that Mr. Assange has sought to avoid for years, and which his supporters say poses a dangerous threat to press freedom. Mr. Assange faces up to 175 years in prison if found guilty of all charges.If the judge, Vanessa Baraitser, rejects the extradition request, however, it would give Mr. Assange a major victory at a time when recent U.S. administrations have increasingly used the Espionage Act against journalists’ sources.Here is what you need to know about the ruling.What are the possible outcomes?Judge Baraitser will not rule on whether Mr. Assange is guilty of wrongdoing, but she will decide whether the U.S. extradition request meets requirements set out under a 2003 extradition treaty with Britain — namely, that the alleged crime for which Mr. Assange is wanted could also lead to trial in Britain, had he done it there.If Judge Baraitser rules in favor of the extradition, the case would go to Britain’s home secretary, who makes the final decision on extraditions. And it would be a politically delicate choice: Mr. Assange is such a high-profile figure, and the charges he faces in the United States so serious, that a decision by the British authorities will have long-lasting consequences.Yet before moving to the home secretary, appeals are likely to keep the case in courts for months. And if Mr. Assange were to lose, his legal team could also attempt to take to case to the European Court of Human Rights. If he were to win on appeal, he could be freed.President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. could play a critical role in determining he fate of Mr. Assange. “If the British judge rules in favor of an extradition, and the U.S. is able to extradite, it will likely fall to the new president to make a decision as to whether the government should continue with the prosecution,” said Carl Tobias, a professor of law at the University of Richmond.Mr. Biden called the WikiLeaks founder a “high-tech terrorist” in 2010 when he was vice president, but it remains unclear what he would do as president. Mr. Biden could pardon Mr. Assange, or the Justice Department could drop the charges against him, or carry on with the prosecution.Calls for President Trump to pardon Mr. Assange have also grown in recent weeks as the U.S. president has issued a wave of pardons and commutations before his term ends.Editors’ PicksIn 2020, We Were There: The Year’s 13 Most Popular DispatchesThe Lasting Lessons of John Conway’s Game of LifeSeriously? He Gets an Early Vaccine?Britain has turned down several extradition requests from the United States in recent years. In 2012, it refused to extradite Gary McKinnon, a British hacker who breached U.S. government computers in 2002, on the basis that he was too ill. In 2018, a high court ruling also blocked the extradition of Lauri Love, who was accused of breaking into U.S. government websites.
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