JULIAN ASSANGE has been detained at HMP Belmarsh, a high-security facility in south-east London for five years, as he fights an extradition request from the US authorities.

Assange faces prosecution in the USA under the Espionage Act of 1917 – a wartime law never intended to target the legitimate work of publishers and journalists – and could face up to 175 years in jail. On a charge of computer misuse, he could receive a maximum of five years’ imprisonment.

On 26 March, the High Court in London adjourned to give the USA an opportunity to file fresh diplomatic assurances over Assange’s treatment if he is extradited. On 20 May, the court will reconsider Assange’s permission to appeal his extradition to the USA.

Commenting on the five year milestone, Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said: “Julian Assange dared to bring to light revelations of alleged war crimes committed by the USA. It is unacceptable that years of his life have been stolen.

“The US authorities have failed to conduct a full and transparent investigation into their alleged war crimes. Instead, they have chosen to target Assange for publishing information leaked to him – even if it was of public interest.

“The ongoing persecution of Assange makes a mockery of the USA’s obligations under international law, and their stated commitment to freedom of expression.

“If extradited to the USA, Assange will be at risk of serious abuse, including prolonged solitary confinement, which would violate the prohibition on torture or other ill-treatment.

“Dubious diplomatic assurances made by the USA as to his treatment are not worth the paper they are written on, not least because they are not legally binding and are riddled with loopholes.

“Assange is wanted for activities that are fundamental to all journalists and publishers, who often receive sensitive government information from outside sources. Wikileaks published evidence of civilian deaths and of alleged war crimes and the public has a right to know if their government is breaking international law.

“The US authorities are paving the way to a disastrous precedent for worldwide media freedom if Assange is extradited. The USA must drop all the charges against Assange, which will allow for his prompt release from UK state custody.”

* Source: Amnesty International UK