Looks Like Assange May Soon Be Headed to US

UK home secretary gives the OK to extradite WikiLeaks founder; he has 14 days to appeal
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 17, 2022 7:33 AM CDT
UK Clears the Way for Assange Extradition
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is taken from court in London on May 1, 2019.   (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File)

The final step in approving Julian Assange's extradition from the UK to the United States to face espionage charges has been taken. In April, a British judge gave the green light to move the WikiLeaks founder overseas, and on Friday, Priti Patel, Britain's home secretary, gave her OK as well, reports USA Today. The case had made its way to Patel's desk after the British Supreme Court had previously ruled there were no roadblocks to Assange, currently held in London's Belmarsh Prison, being extradited over concerns of how he'd be treated in US prisons. ABC News notes that Assange has 14 days to appeal, and per a statement from WikiLeaks, which called Patel's decision "a dark day for press freedom and for British democracy," he'll do just that.

"Julian did nothing wrong," the statement notes. "He has committed no crime and is not a criminal. He is a journalist and a publisher, and he is being punished for doing his job." Assange, 50, has been indicted on 18 charges by the US Justice Department over allegations that he conspired with and "aided and abetted" ex-Army intel analyst Chelsea Manning in obtaining classified documents, then published them on WikiLeaks. Assange's legal team says he could see up to 175 years behind bars if convicted, though US authorities say his sentence will likely be much less harsh.

The Guardian notes the pushback that Patel's ruling is drawing from journalists, MPs, and pro-Assange activists. "Journalists in Britain and elsewhere will be very worried by the decision to extradite Julian Assange to the US—both for his own well-being & for the precedent it creates for journalism worldwide," BBC broadcaster John Simpson posted on Twitter. The UK's Home Office, meanwhile, suggests its hands were tied. "Under the Extradition Act 2003, the secretary of state must sign an extradition order if there are no grounds to prohibit the order being made," the agency said in a statement, per ABC. "Extradition requests are only sent to the home secretary once a judge decides it can proceed after considering various aspects of the case." (More Julian Assange stories.)

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