British Home Secretary Priti Patel Friday signed the documents whereby the Australian founder of Wikileaks Julian Assange is to be extradited to the United States to be tried for divulging classified information revealing war crimes in Iran and Afghanistan.
Assange, 50, now has 14 days to try a new appeal and if that fails, which is almost taken for granted, he can still go before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, a body belonging to the Council of Europe of which the United Kingdom is a member.
Patel argued that the British judges did not see a risk of abuse, unfair or oppressive treatment against Assange in the scope of the extradition process, 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 U.S. he will be treated appropriately, including in relation to his health.
Wikileaks said Patel's decision meant a dark day for press freedom, while Amnesty International's Secretary-General Agnes Callamard claimed Assange's extradition would send a chilling message to journalists around the world.
Assange's wife Stella, who is also his lawyer, has vowed to use every appeal avenue.
I'm going to spend every waking hour fighting for Julian until he is free, until justice is served.”
A British judge approved Assange's extradition in April, leaving the final decision up to the government after a legal battle that went all the way to the U.K. Supreme Court.
Assange is to be tried for 17 charges of espionage and one charge of computer misuse over WikiLeaks' publication of a huge trove of classified documents more than a decade ago.
Prosecutors claim Assange unlawfully helped US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal diplomatic cables and military files that, when released on WikiLeaks, put the lives of many operatives at risk.
Press freedom advocates have called on Britain to refuse the extradition request on the grounds that Assange was acting as a journalist and, as such, he is entitled to First Amendment protections. They also believe Assange's prosecution is politically motivated.
According to his US legal team, Assange could face up to 175 years in jail if he is convicted in the U.S., although analysts believe any sentence is likely to be much lower than that.
Assange has been held at Britain's high-security Belmarsh Prison in London since 2019 when he was arrested for skipping bail during a separate legal battle. Before that, he spent seven years inside Ecuador's Embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden to face rape and sexual assault charges. Stockholm dropped the sex crimes investigations in November 2019 due to the time elapsed.