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Assange Faces Extradition to the United States

The United Kingdom’s Home Secretary Priti Patel approved Julian Assange’s extradition to the United States.

Assange, an Australian national, has 14 days to appeal the decision. “Responding to the home secretary’s order, Wikileaks confirmed it would appeal against her decision,” the BBC reported, describing Wikileaks as “a whistle-blowing platform that publishes classified material provided by anonymous sources.”

The United States alleges that in 2010 and 2011 Assange’s publication of leaked documents about the Afghanistan and Iraq wars was illegal under the U.S. Espionage Act.

“The U.S. has asked British authorities to extradite Assange so he can stand trial on 17 charges of espionage and one charge of computer misuse,” NPR reported. “American prosecutors say Assange unlawfully helped U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal classified diplomatic cables and military files that Wikileaks later published, putting lives at risk.”

Assange’s defenders claim that he was working as a journalist when he published the documents and is protected by the First Amendment.

Patel signed the extradition order on Friday, according to a statement from the UK’s Home Office. A British court determined that Assange’s extradition would not be “incompatible with his human rights” and that he would be treated appropriately while in U.S. custody. “His attorneys argued that he was at high risk of suicide under the restrictions he might face while in U.S. custody,” according to The Washington Post.

The decision is a significant point in Assange’s years of trying to avoid a trial in the United States.

Assange resided in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for seven years, under asylum status, to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he was charged with alleged rape and sexual assault. (Sweden dropped its investigation in November 2019, citing that too much time had passed.) He was extracted from the embassy in 2019, and arrested for skipping bail over a separate legal issue. Since then he has been held in the high-security Belmarsh Prison in London.

The legal battle over Assange’s extradition to the United States climbed all the way to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, and in April 2022 a British judge approved the extradition. This left the last word on the decision with the British government.

Assange’s lawyers have previously claimed that he could face a possible penalty of up to 175 years in prison if convicted in the U.S. However, the U.S. government said the sentence was more likely to be four to six years,” CNBC reported.