LONDON — WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange said in an interview published Thursday there was a “high chance” he would be killed in a US jail if he were to be extradited from Britain on espionage charges.
The Australian is on bail in Britain fighting a bid by Sweden to extradite him over sex assault claims, but Washington is believed to be considering how to indict him over the leaking of thousands of US diplomatic cables.
Assange told The Guardian it would be “politically impossible” for Britain to send him across the Atlantic, adding that the government of Prime Minister David Cameron would want to show it had not been “co-opted” by Washington.
“Legally the UK has the right to not extradite for political crimes. Espionage is the classic case of political crimes. It is at the discretion of the UK government as to whether to apply to that exception,” he said.
He said US authorities were “trying to strike a plea deal” with Bradley Manning, the US army soldier suspected of providing WikiLeaks with the cables.
Assange added that if the United States succeeded in getting him extradited from Britain or Sweden, then there was a “high chance” of him being killed “Jack Ruby-style” in an American prison.
Ruby, a nightclub owner, shot dead Lee Harvey Oswald at a police station in Dallas, Texas days after Oswald was arrested for the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy in 1963.
Ruby’s alleged links to organized crime sparked conspiracy theories about his involvement in an overall plot surrounding the assassination of Kennedy.
Assange has previously said that he and other WikiLeaks staff have received death threats since the website began to release a cache of around 250,000 secret US State Department cable in November.
The 39-year-old has been staying at a friend’s country mansion in eastern England since his release from jail last week on strict bail conditions that include reporting to police daily and wearing an electronic tag.
A court in London is due to hold a full hearing on the Swedish extradition request starting February 7.
England pubs reopen on US Independence Day — after first nationwide closure since 1665’s Great Plague
The streets of Soho filled with merry drinkers in London on Saturday and the pubs of Manchester were packed as England's hospitality sector returned from a three-month coronavirus hiatus.
"It feels amazing," said Leo Richard Bill, a soldier, after getting through the door of one of London's buzziest restaurants on the Thames River's popular south bank.
"It’s been what, like three months since... me and everyone else haven’t been able to get outside and have a good time. So yeah, it feels good to get amongst it," he said.
Parts of London and other cities, deserted during lockdown, sprang to life as people dressed up and came out for "Super Saturday" -- the day England's hospitality sector reopened for the first time since March.
Trump’s angry words and Coronavirus surge darken Independence Day weekend in America
The United States marked an unusually somber Independence Day on Saturday, with President Donald Trump bashing domestic opponents and China -- but praising the country's coronavirus response, despite a record surge in cases.
Across the country, virus fears dampened or nixed Main Street parades, backyard barbecues and family reunions on a day when Americans typically celebrate their 1776 declaration of independence from Britain.
Instead of adopting a unifying tone, Trump -- facing a tough re-election and eager to mobilize his political base -- railed against protesters demanding racial justice after unarmed African American George Floyd was killed by a white police officer.
‘Spoiler’ Kanye West mocked for running for president against his pal Trump: ‘2020 never fails to disappoint’
President Donald Trump appears to have lost the support of one of his most well-known Black supporters as Kanye West announced on Saturday that he is running for president.
“We must now realize the promise of America by trusting God, unifying our vision and building our future. I am running for president of the United States,” West posted on Twitter, with the hashtag #2020VISION.
The musician was mocked for his presidential bid, here's some of what people were saying: