WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange should be sent to the US to face criminal espionage charges, the UK government said, siding with the courts on his long-running battle to avoid extradition.
UK home secretary Priti Patel rubber-stamped the transfer on Friday. Assange has lost a series of legal battles to remain in the UK but further appeal routes are available to him, meaning he’s unlikely to get on a plane any time soon.
The government decision comes after a judge accepted US assurances over jail conditions. Assange has been in prison or in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for a decade, as he fought attempts to send him to face charges first in Sweden and then in the US. Australian-born Assange is being held at high-security Belmarsh prison.
“The UK courts have not found that it would be oppressive, unjust or an abuse of process to extradite Mr Assange,” a spokesman for the home office said in a statement.
The Swedish case against him was dropped, but the US government in 2019 charged him under spying laws for his role in releasing hundreds of thousands of pages of classified documents via WikiLeaks, with the help of US army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.
Assange’s lawyers have previously indicated he has appeal options “including questions of free speech and on the political motivations of the US request”.
Supporters, that include several human rights and press freedom groups, have argued that the ruling leaves questions about the media’s ability to report from classified sources. WikiLeaks published diplomatic cables and e-mails including a video that showed a US air strike that ended up killing a member of the Reuters news staff in Baghdad. — Jonathan Browning, (c) 2022 Bloomberg LP