UK approves US extradition of WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange

A supporter of Julian Assange displays a placard, outside the Westminster Magistrates' Court in London, on April 20, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (Reuters) - British interior minister Priti Patel on Friday (June 17) approved the extradition of WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange to the United States to face criminal charges, bringing his long-running legal saga closer to a conclusion.

Assange is wanted by US authorities on 18 counts, including a spying charge, relating to WikiLeaks' release of vast troves of confidential US military records and diplomatic cables which they said had put lives in danger.

His supporters say he is an anti-establishment hero who has been victimised because he exposed US wrongdoing in conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that his prosecution is a politically-motivated assault on journalism and free speech.

"On 17 June, following consideration by both the Magistrates Court and High Court, the extradition of Mr Julian Assange to the US was ordered. Mr Assange retains the normal 14-day right to appeal," the Home Office said in a statement.

Patel's decision does not mean the end of Australian-born Assange's legal battle which has been going on for more than a decade.

He can launch an appeal at London's High Court which must give its approval for a challenge to proceed.

He can ultimately seek to take his case to the United Kingdom Supreme Court. But if an appeal is refused, Assange must be extradited within 28 days.

Wikileaks said Assange would appeal his extradition.

"Today is not the end of the fight. It is only the beginning of a new legal battle. We will appeal through the legal system," a statement posted on the Wikileaks Twitter accounts said.

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