LONDON – A British judge on Wednesday Officially approved the extradition of Julian Assange to the United States faces espionage charges. The case will now be referred to the UK Home Secretary for a decision, though WikiLeaks founder There are still legal avenues of appeal.
Order, bring and end the extradition battle lasted many years closer, comes after the UK’s Supreme Court last month denied Assange’s permission to appeal a lower court ruling that he could be extradited.
District Judge Paul Goldspring issued the order during a brief hearing at Westminster Magistrates Court, when Assange saw a video link from Belmarsh Prison and his supporters rallied outside the court, demanding him be set free.
Interior Minister Priti Patel will now decide whether to allow extradition.
The move does not exhaust the legal options for Assange, who has sought to evade trial in the US for years on charges related to WikiLeaks’ release of a huge trove of classified documents more than a year ago. decade.
His lawyers have four weeks to submit to Patel and may also seek an appeal to the Supreme Court.
Assange’s lawyer Mark Summers told the court the legal team had “serious submissions” to make.
The US has asked British authorities to extradite Assange so he can stand trial on 17 counts of espionage and one count of computer abuse. US prosecutors allege that Assange illegally aided US military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in stealing classified diplomatic cables and military files that WikiLeaks later published, putting their lives in danger. hazardous.
Advocates and lawyers for Assange, 50, argue that he is operating as a journalist and entitled to First Amendment free speech protections for publishing copies of documents exposing US military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan. They argue that his case was politically motivated.
A UK district court judge initially rejected the US extradition request on the grounds that Assange would likely commit suicide if held in harsh US prison conditions. US authorities later gave assurances that the WikiLeaks founder would not face severe treatment that his lawyers say would put his physical and mental health in jeopardy. hazardous.
In December, the High Court overturned the lower court’s decision, saying that US promises were sufficient to ensure that Assange would be treated humanely. The Supreme Court in March rejected Assange’s attempt to challenge that ruling.
Assange’s lawyers say he could face 175 years in prison if he is convicted in the US, although US authorities say the sentence is likely to be much lower.
Assange has been held at British high-security Belmarsh Prison in London since 2019, when he was arrested on bail in a separate legal battle. Before that, he spent seven years inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London avoiding extradition to Sweden to face rape and sexual assault charges.
Sweden dropped sex crime investigations in November 2019 because a lot of time has passed.
Last month, Assange and his partner Stella Moris married in a prison ceremony.