(LONDON) — The United States has reportedly sent assurances to the United Kingdom intended to facilitate the extradition of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange — including that he will not face the death penalty — signaling, for now, that the U.S. is continuing to move forward with its efforts to prosecute Assange on espionage charges.

Last month, the U.K.’s High Court ordered a delay in Assange’s extradition unless the U.S. could provide assurances on a number of issues, including that he would not face the death penalty and that he will be granted the same first amendment protections as American citizens.

The U.S. embassy in London has now sent a letter to the U.K. Foreign Office, according to multiple news organizations, seeking to address those issues.

The letter referred specifically to Assange having “the ability to raise and seek to rely upon” the first amendment but also said that its applicability “is exclusively within the purview of the U.S. courts,” according to the Guardian. It also states that “a sentence of death will neither be sought nor imposed on Assange.”

It came despite President Joe Biden’s comments last week that he was “considering” an Australian request to end the prosecution of Assange, setting off speculation that the Biden administration may be seeking to avoid a contentious trial that would be fraught with media freedom issues, amid other reports the administration is looking at a plea deal.

The move is the latest development in a years-long legal battle by the U.S. to prosecute Assange over the publishing of classified military and diplomatic materials that were leaked by the former American soldier Chelsea Manning in 2010, including some that showed possible war crimes committed by American forces in Iraq.

Assange has spent five years in London’s Belmarsh prison while he fights the U.S. extradition request, and his imprisonment has been widely condemned by international human rights organizations as well as United Nations human rights officials.

The U.K. High Court in a ruling last month had set a deadline for the U.S. to provide those assurances and scheduled a hearing for May 20 to rule on whether they are sufficient to extradite Assange or if he should be allowed to appeal against it again.

Assange’s wife in a statement confirmed the letter’s existence but denounced it as “weasel words,” saying, in reality, it did not offer any real protections for Assange if he were extradited.

“The United States has issued a non-assurance in relation to the First Amendment, and a standard assurance in relation to the death penalty. It makes no undertaking to withdraw the prosecution’s previous assertion that Julian has no First Amendment rights because he is not a US citizen. Instead, the US has limited itself to blatant weasel words claiming that Julian can ‘seek to raise’ the First Amendment if extradited. The diplomatic note does nothing to relieve our family’s extreme distress about his future — his grim expectation of spending the rest of his life in isolation in US prison for publishing award-winning journalism. The Biden Administration must drop this dangerous prosecution before it is too late,” Stella Assange said in a statement.

Assange was arrested in London in 2019, after he was evicted from the Ecuadorian embassy where he had been sheltering for seven years while facing prosecution in Sweden on sexual assault charges that have since been dropped. After his arrest by British police on charges of breaking his bail conditions related to the Swedish case, U.S. prosecutors unveiled an indictment charging him with hacking offenses related to the Manning files.

But weeks later, the Justice Department under the Trump administration brought a greatly expanded indictment, charging Assange with 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act by obtaining and publishing the materials from Manning. Leading media organizations,, including The New York Times, have warned the effort to prosecute Assange using the Espionage Act threatens media freedoms in the U.S. and have urged the Biden administration to drop the charges.

Despite only ever being sentenced to 50 weeks in prison by a U.K. court for violating his bail conditions in the Swedish case — which has since been closed — Assange has spent five years imprisoned in Belmarsh Prison in London while he contests extradition.

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