A UK judge has formally approved the extradition of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to the United States on Wednesday, forwarding the request to Interior Minister Priti Patel for final approval.
While Assange still has to appeal the decision, the move represents a major step toward Assange’s prosecution for spying charges in the US related to his publication of sensitive military and diplomatic documents.
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Assange’s lawyers now have four weeks to submit arguments to Patel against his extradition. They may also appeal the case to a higher court, but there is no guarantee the case would be heard, according to the BBC.
The US has charged Assange with 17 counts of espionage and one count of computer misuse, according to the Department of Justice. The charges arise from accusations that he helped former Army data analyst Chelsea Manning illegally obtain sensitive US documents.
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Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison following an arrest in 2010. President Barack Obama commuted Manning’s sentence in 2010, however, leading to Manning’s release the same year.