UK rules Assange can be extradited to US

British Home Secretary Priti Patel has approved the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States to face criminal charges, bringing his long legal saga closer to a conclusion.

Assange is wanted by US authorities on 18 counts, including one count of espionage, related to WikiLeaks’ disclosure of vast treasures of confidential US military records and diplomatic cables that Washington says have put lives in danger.

His supporters say he is an anti-establishment hero who was victimized because he exposed US wrongdoing in conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that his charge is a politically motivated attack on journalism and free speech.

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The Interior Ministry said on Friday that his extradition had been approved, but he could still appeal the decision. WikiLeaks said yes.

“In this case, the UK courts did not find it oppressive, unfair or an abuse of process to extradite Assange,” the Home Office said in a statement.

“They also did not find that extradition would be incompatible with his human rights, including his right to a fair trial and freedom of expression, and that while in the US he will be treated properly, including with regard to his health.”

Originally, a British judge ruled that Assange should not be deported, saying his mental health issues meant he would be at risk of suicide if convicted and held in a maximum security prison.

But that was overturned in an 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 the Australian-born Assange’s legal battle that has lasted more than a decade.

He can file an appeal with the High Court in London, which must give its approval for a challenge to continue. He may ultimately try to take his case to the UK Supreme Court.

But if the appeal is denied, Assange must be extradited within 28 days.

“This is a dark day for freedom of the press and for British democracy,” said Assange’s wife, Stella.

“Today is not the end of the fight. It’s just the beginning of a new legal battle.”

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Peter Fray

Peter Fray
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