What would happen if Magistrate Vanessa Baraitser renders a split decision on the Julian Assange extradition case on Monday?, asks Alexander Mercouris.
By Alexander Mercouris
Special to Consortium News
One possibility that must be considered in the Julian Assange extradition case on Monday is a split decision in which Magistrate Vanessa Baraitser may decide to extradite Assange on one indictment but not on the other. For instance, she could rule, for argument’s sake, against extradition on the Espionage Act charges, but in favour of extradition on the conspiracy to commit computer intrusion charge (which carries a maximum five year sentence as opposed to 170 on espionage.)
What would likely happen in that case is that the British authorities would accept Baraitser’s decision and would try to reach an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice whereby, in return for Assange’s extradition, the U.S. would commit itself to try Assange only on the computer intrusion charges, and not on the Espionage Act charges.
The British over the course of the negotiations would tell the U.S. that if the U.S. were not willing to give that commitment then the British would not be able to extradite Assange to the U.S.
Of course the British (if Assange were extradited to the U.S. on such a basis) would be in no position to compel the U.S. to abide by such a commitment if the U.S were to go back on it once Assange was on U.S. soil.
Since that has to be a very likely possibility, one would think it would be a point which Assange’s lawyers would make in the appeal they would be bound to make to the High Court against Baraitser’s decision.
In fact in such a scenario it’s not impossible that both sides would appeal to the High Court:
(1) the U.S. against Baraitser’s decision to refuse to extradite on the basis of the Espionage Act;
(2) Assange’s lawyers against Baraitser’s decision to extradite on the computer intrusion charges.
It would be a fascinating battle and it would be fascinating to see how it would play out.
Logically, the balance ought to tip in Assange’s favour since Baraitser would presumably have rejected extradition on the Espionage Act charges because they were not properly made out and because they were overtly political.
In light of that, would the High Court be prepared to allow Assange’s extradition on computer intrusion charges to a country which had tried unsuccessfully to bring overtly political charges against him which the lower Court had rejected?
Nothing is predictable in this case.
Alexander Mercouris is a legal analyst and editor of The Duran.
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