The United Kingdom has approved an order to extradite Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, to the United States to stand trial for espionage. British Home Secretary Priti Patel approved his extradition, but Assange has vowed to fight it.
“Following consideration by both the Magistrates Court and High Court, the extradition of Julian Assange has been ordered,” the U.K. Home Office tweeted.
“Under the Extradition Act 2003, the Home Secretary must sign an extradition order if there are no grounds to prohibit the order being made,” the office continued. “Extradition requests are only sent to the Home Secretary once a judge decides it can proceed after considering various aspects of the case.”
The U.K. Home Office also tweeted that Assange can appeal the decision, adding that he “will only be surrendered to the requesting state when all avenues of legal challenge are exhausted.”
Assange said he plans to appeal the decision.
In April, Assange’s extradition was authorized in a London court, reversing a previous ruling that prohibited extraditing the WikiLeaks founder on the grounds that he would likely commit suicide in a U.S. prison.
“The U.K. courts have not found that it would be oppressive, unjust or an abuse of process to extradite Mr. Assange. Nor have they found that extradition would be incompatible with his human rights,” the U.K. government last week, according to the Wall Street Journal.
In a statement posted on Twitter, WikiLeaks accused Patel of being “an accomplice of the United States in its agenda to turn investigative journalism into a criminal enterprise.”
“This is a dark day for press freedom and for British democracy. Anyone in this country who cares about freedom of expression should be deeply ashamed that the Home Secretary has approved the extradition of Julian Assange to the United States, the country that plotted his assassination.”
Assange faces 18 counts of conspiring to disclose classified information and conspiring to hack a military computer in the United States and, if convicted, could be sentenced to 175 years in prison.
“Julian did nothing wrong. He has committed no crime and is not a criminal. He is a journalist and a publisher, and he is being punished for doing his job,” WikiLeaks statement continued.
“Make no mistake, this has always been a political case. Julian published evidence that the country trying to extradite him committed war crimes and covered them up; tortured and rendered; bribed foreign officials; and corrupted judicial inquiries into U.S. wrongdoing,” it added. “Their revenge is to try to disappear him into the darkest recesses of their prison system for the rest of his life to deter others from holding governments to account.”
Nick Vamos, a lawyer at Peters & Peters Solicitors LLP, said the extradition order likely sparked a months-long appeal process.
“This decision was inevitable given the very narrow grounds on which the home secretary can refuse extradition, but is unlikely to be the end of the road,” Vamos said. “This case could run for another six months at least.”