The United Kingdom Home Office, has approved a request by the United States for the extradition of fugitive founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, to the US to face criminal charges in his longrunning legal battle which has lasted over 10 years.
The approval was given by British Home Secretary Priti Patel on Friday which will see the Australian-born Assange arraigned on charges bordering on treason and espionage.
The Home Office said Assange’s extradition had now been approved but he could still appeal the decision.
“In this case, the UK courts have not found that it would be oppressive, unjust or an abuse of process to extradite Mr Assange,” the Home Office said in the statement signed by Patel.
“Nor have they found that extradition would be incompatible with his human rights, including his right to a fair trial and to freedom of expression, and that whilst in the US he will be treated appropriately, including in relation to his health,” the statement added.
Before the approval, a British judge had ruled that Assange should not be deported, citing his mental health problems which meant he would be at risk of suicide if convicted and held in a maximum-security prison.
But the ruling was overturned on an appeal after the US gave a deluge of assurances, including a pledge he could be transferred to Australia to serve any sentence.
The Wikileaks founder had been declared wanted by US authorities on 18 counts including a spying charge, relating to WikiLeaks’ release of a large number of confidential US military records and diplomatic cables which Washington said had put many lives in danger.
But his supporters have continued to accuse the US government of victimisation, calling Assange an anti-establishment hero who has been victimised because he exposed US wrongdoing in conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
They also say his travails and prosecution are politically motivated assault on journalism and free speech.
“This is a dark day for press freedom and for British democracy,” Assange’s wife Stella said. “Today is not the end of the fight. It is only the beginning of a new legal battle.”
Agnes Callamard, the secretary general of Amnesty International, said that “allowing Julian Assange to be extradited to the US would put him at great risk and sends a chilling message to journalists the world over”.
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