British Home Secretary Priti Patel on Friday approved the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States to face criminal charges, bringing his long legal saga closer to an end.
US authorities are seeking Assange on 18 charges, including one count of espionage, related to WikiLeaks’ publication of large amounts of sensitive US military records and diplomatic cables that Washington says put lives in danger.
His supporters say he is an anti-establishment hero who has been victimized because he exposed US wrongdoing in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that his prosecution is a politically motivated attack on journalism and free speech.
The Interior Ministry said his extradition had already been approved, but he could still appeal the decision. WikiLeaks said it would.
“In this case, the UK courts have not found that it would be oppressive, unfair or an abuse of process to extradite Mr Assange,” the Home Office said in a statement.
“Nor have they found that extradition would be inconsistent with his human rights, including his right to a fair trial and freedom of expression, and that while in the United States he will be treated appropriately, including in relation to his health.”
Originally, a British judge ruled that Assange should not be deported, saying his mental health problems meant he would risk suicide if convicted and held in a maximum-security prison.
But this was overturned on appeal after the US gave a package of guarantees, including a promise that he could be transferred to Australia to serve any sentence.
Patel’s decision does not mean the end of Australian Assange’s legal battle, which has been going on for more than a decade.
You can appeal to the High Court in London, which must give its approval for the challenge to proceed. Ultimately, you can try to take your case to the UK Supreme Court. But if an appeal is rejected, Assange must be extradited within 28 days.
“This is a dark day for press freedom and for British democracy,” said Stella, Assange’s wife. “Today is not the end of the fight. It is only the beginning of a new legal battle.”