11:27 GMT27 January 2021
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    LONDON (Sputnik) - Ecuador's former consul to the United Kingdom Fidel Narvaez told Sputnik on Sunday that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's eventual extradition to the United States would set a precedent against journalism and freedom of the press.

    UK district judge Vanessa Baraitser will decide on Monday if Assange can be extradited to the US, where he could face up to 175 years in prison for the publication of classified information on the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and thousands of US diplomatic cables between 2010 and 2011.

    "What really matters here is that we should be aware of the enormous relevance of this case. It's not just about Assange, but the precedent it will set against journalism and the freedom of the press if he is extradited to the US," Narvaez told Sputnik in a phone interview.

    According to the former diplomat, who was very close to Assange after the whistleblower sought refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London in 2012, by seeking his extradition, the US Department of Justice is trying to avenge its public humiliation.

    "It's been 10 years now since this persecution began, trying to physically and mentally destroy him and to set a precedent so no one else dare to do what he did," he stressed.

    Assange's extradition trial ended at London's Old Bailey court on October 1 after his defense team spent four weeks trying to prove that the whistleblower was being indicted for political reasons.

    Although the judge will hand over her verdict on his extradition on Monday, the case will probably go before several UK courts before it is concluded because the losing side will file for appeal.

    Whatever the verdict the case will continue, because the losing side will appeal, so there are still many more hearings ahead that will last for months, Narvaez said, adding that he only expects that Assange be granted the bail release he had been repeatedly denied so far by the UK court.

    Assange has been held in a UK maximum security prison since he was arrested at the Ecuadorean embassy in London in April, 2019, and sentenced to 50 weeks in prison for jumping a bail back in 2012. Although he served the whole sentence long time ago, Judge Baraitser has refused to release him until the extradition case is over.

    WikiLeaks, US, Extradition, Julian Assange, UK, Ecuador
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