LONDON — The British government on Friday approved an extradition order for Julian Assange, the hard-pressed founder of WikiLeaks, confirming a court ruling that he could be sent to the United States to stand trial on espionage charges, though his legal struggle with this decision is unlikely to take place. above.
While the order is a blow to Mr. Assange, whose case is seen by human rights groups as a potential challenge to press freedom, he is likely to appeal the decision again in a British court.
A spokesman for the Home Office stated that “On June 17, after consideration by both the Magistrates’ Court and the High Court, a decision was made to extradite Mr. Julian Assange to the United States.” Assange retains the usual 14-day right of appeal.”
The Home Office pointed to a British court ruling that did not find that “Mr Assange’s extradition would be repressive, unfair or an abuse of due process.”
In addition, the courts did not consider that extradition “would be inconsistent with his human rights, including his right to a fair trial and freedom of expression, and that he would be treated appropriately during his stay in the United States, including with regard to his health.” . ”
His defense team has yet to say what will happen next. The approval of the order by Home Secretary Priti Patel is just the latest twist in a long legal battle since a British court ordered Mr Assange’s extradition in April.
In 2019, Mr. Assange was indicted in the United States under the Espionage Act for obtaining and publishing classified government documents on the Afghan and Iraq wars on WikiLeaks in 2010. These files were leaked by Chelsea Manning, a former military intelligence analyst. before posting on the site.
Throughout the lengthy legal battle against his extradition, Mr. Assange remained in custody at Belmarsh Prison in London, where he was detained for nearly three years. Mr Assange married his partner Stella Maurice in prison this year.
He was arrested in London in 2019 after hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy for seven years trying to avoid detention as he fought for extradition to Sweden, where he was wanted for questioning in a rape case. This case was later dropped.
Under current government guidelines, Ms. Patel can only block extradition requests in a small number of circumstances. This includes cases involving people previously extradited or transferred to the UK from other countries, other individuals facing the death penalty, or those who may be charged with new, previously undeclared crimes after their transfer.
But if none of these issues were raised, Ms. Patel would have no reason to deny the extradition request and would be bound to comply, according to the Home Office.
However, Mr Assange’s legal team will still be able to appeal to the UK High Court both against Ms Patel’s decision and possibly a number of other concerns about the US request. The High Court will then decide on which points Mr Assange can appeal, if any. This process may take several months.
Having exhausted his options in the British courts, Mr. Assange could also try to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, although it is still unclear what powers he would have over the UK’s decision after it left the European Union.
Human rights groups have expressed concern that Mr. Assange’s extradition to the United States may threaten freedom of the pressand when the court ruled in his case, several organizations condemned the move.