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The British government has ordered the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States to face charges of espionage. They are likely to appeal.
Home Secretary Priti Patel signed the extradition order on Friday, her department said. It follows a British court ruling in April that Assange could be deported to the US
The Home Office said in a statement that “UK courts have not found that it would be oppressive, unjust or abuse of process to extradite Mr. Assange.”
“Nor have they found that extradition would be inconsistent with their human rights, including their right to a fair trial and freedom of expression, and that they would be treated fairly with respect to their health in the US.”
The decision marks a major moment in Assange’s years-long fight to avoid facing trial in the US – though not necessarily the end of the story. Assange has 14 days to appeal.
A British judge approved the extradition in April, leaving the final decision to the government. The decision came after a legal battle that went all the way to the Supreme Court of the UK.
The US has asked British officials to extradite Assange so that he can stand trial on 17 charges of espionage and one charge of computer abuse over the publication of a vast trove of classified documents by WikiLeaks more than a decade ago. US prosecutors say Assange illegally helped US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal confidential diplomatic cables and military files later published by WikiLeaks, putting her life at risk.
Journalists’ organizations and human rights groups have called on the UK to reject the extradition request.
Supporters and lawyers of 50-year-old Assange argue that he was entitled to First Amendment protection of freedom of speech for working as a journalist and publishing documents exposing US military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan . He argues that his case is politically motivated.
Assange’s lawyers say he could face up to 175 years in prison if convicted in the US, though US officials have said any sentence could be much less.
Assange has been lodged in Britain’s high-security Belmarsh Prison in London since 2019, when he was arrested for not granting bail during a separate legal battle. Before that, she spent seven years inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden to face charges of rape and sexual assault.
Sweden dropped the sex crimes investigation in November 2019 because so much time had passed.