Is U.S. Extradition of Assange a Possibility?

Julian Assange, the 39-year-old Australian founder of WikiLeaks, surrendered on Monday to London police as part of a Swedish sex-crimes investigation.

According to authorities, Assange was arrested at about 9:30am local time after appearing at a London police station by appointment. In a statement, London police said that he is accused of one count of unlawful coercion, one count of rape and two counts of sexual molestation by Swedish authorities. All of the crimes are alleged to have been committed in August this year. Assange has denied the allegations.

When appearing before the court, Assange told them that he intends to fight the extradition to Sweden. He was denied bail, and the judge ordered him to stay in custody until the extradition hearing on December 14.

A few concerns may be of interest regarding the possible U.S. extradition of Assange. For instance, if the U.S. attempts to extradite Assange under the Espionage Act, it may be problematic given the First Amendment. However, WikiLeaks is not located in the U.S. and may not be covered by the First Amendment. On the other hand, a host of other U.S. federal criminal statutes could apply.

The question arises as to which country the U.S. would rather extradite Assange from, if they choose to do so. The United Kingdom passed an expedited extradition law a few years ago to render terrorists to the U.S. As it turned out, it’s been mostly alleged white collar defendants instead. This law has been very controversial in U.K., and the public has spoken out with “Blair was lapdog for the U.S.” kinds of statements.

The fact remains that although the U.S. may be considering extraditing Assange, Sweden moved first. However, Sweden could withdraw their request and allow the U.S. to have first “dubs” on Assange.

Going back to the issues with the First Amendment and freedom of speech, the First Amendment is problematic, but remember there may be a question as to whether the U.S. Constitution applies to a foreign (non-U.S.) news organization based outside the U.S.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, Interpol Litigation, International Extradition and OFAC Litigation.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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