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UK approves Julian Assange’s extradition to the US, offers him 14 days to appeal

By Agencies

LONDON: UK Home Secretary Priti Patel has approved the US government’s request to extradite the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States to face spying charges, her department said on June 17. It follows a British court ruling that he could be sent to the US.

The Home Office said the interior minister “must sign an extradition order if there are no grounds to prohibit the (extradition) order being made” and the courts had found none.

The decision is a big moment in Assange’s years-long battle to avoid being sent to the US — though not necessarily the end of the tale. Assange has 14 days to appeal.

Supreme Court in March had refused Assange permission to appeal against a lower court’s ruling that he could be extradited to face trial in the US over the publication of secret files relating to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. On April 20, a judge at Westminster Magistrates’ Court had formally issued the order in a brief hearing, as Assange watched by video link from Belmarsh Prison.

The US has asked British authorities to extradite Assange so he can stand trial on 17 charges of espionage and one charge of computer misuse.

Assange sought for years to avoid a trial in the US where he is wanted on charges of violating the US Espionage Act by publishing a huge trove of classified military and diplomatic files in 2010.

Press freedom

The 50-year-old’s case has become a cause celebre for media freedom, with his supporters accusing Washington of trying to muzzle reporting of legitimate security concerns. He could face up to 175 years in jail if found guilty, although the exact sentence is difficult to estimate.

Assange has been held on remand at a top-security jail in southeast London since 2019 for jumping bail in a previous case accusing him of sexual assault in Sweden.

That case was dropped but he was not released from prison after serving time for breaching bail on the grounds he was a flight risk in the US extradition case.

Assange, who married Stella Moris in jail in March, spent seven years at Ecuador’s embassy in London to avoid being removed to Sweden. He was arrested when the government changed in Quito and his diplomatic protection was removed.

(With inputs from AP and AFP)

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