The United Kingdom has approved the sending of Julian Assange, the founder of the popular website WikiLeaks, to the United States. Home Minister Preity Patel’s office confirmed the approval on Friday. Assange could face up to 175 years in prison if convicted of spying for the United States.
Assange is currently being held in a UK prison. He recently got married in prison. Assange has been charged with 16 counts of spying for the United States for leaking millions of classified documents. The country claims that the leak of WikiLeaks information has put many lives in the United States at risk.
But Assange’s supporters say Assange is an “anti-establishment” hero. He is the victim of a politically motivated case. He has angered political leaders by exposing US wrongdoing in Afghanistan and Iraq. The case against him is an attack on journalism and freedom of speech.
The UK Home Office said in a statement that it had ordered the extradition of Julian Assange to the United States on June 18, following a ruling by both the Magistrates’ Court and the High Court. Assange will have 14 days to appeal the decision.
Preity Patel’s order does not mean that almost all legal avenues of a decade-long legal battle are now closed for Assange of Australian descent. He can appeal to the London High Court against the Home Ministry’s approval if he wants and with the court’s permission. If he fails there, he can take the matter to the Supreme Court. However, if his appeal is rejected, Assange will have to be handed over to the United States within 28 days.
In 2010, WikiLeaks leaked 500,000 classified documents related to the US-led war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The United States is angry with Assange. Assange sought political asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London for seven years to avoid arrest. From there, on April 11, 2020, he was arrested by the London police.
In March, a British court ruled that Assange should be extradited to the United States. Assange later married his fiance Stella Morris in prison. Stella had requested Preity Patel not to send Assange to the United States. But Preity did not keep Stella’s request.
Read more: Assange extradited to United States