Julian Assange’s Extradition to the US Has Moved Closer

LONDON: Julian Assange’s fight against extradition to the United States has now reached the British home secretary, who will make the ultimate judgment.

The judge in charge of extradition petitions approved the case to be referred to Priti Patel at a hearing at Westminster Magistrates Court on Wednesday.

If Patel approves his extradition, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is likely to file an appeal with the High Court.

Mr. Assange is sought by the United States for the leaking of documents in 2010 and 2011.

Last month, the Supreme Court found that Mr Assange’s situation did not raise any legal issues about guarantees the US had provided the UK about how he would be treated.

Ms Patel now has to decide if the US’s request for Mr Assange passes the final legal hurdles, which include a commitment not to execute him.

Mark Summers QC, Julian Assange’s counsel, informed Chief Magistrate Paul Goldspring that the home secretary will be receiving “serous submissions” on US sentencing legislation and procedures.

“You, of course, have no option but to send this case to the Secretary of State,” he said.

“It is not for me to raise fresh evidence [at this stage] even though there have been serious developments in this case.”

During the seven-minute session, Mr Assange spoke briefly via video connection from Belmarsh Prison to confirm his identity and date of birth and to say he knew what was going on.

“I am duty-bound to send your case to the Secretary of State for a decision on whether youdomi will be extradited,” the judge told him.

“You have the right to appeal to the High Court and if you exercise your right to appeal it will not be heard until [Ms Patel] has made her decision.”

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the court to oppose Mr. Assange’s extradition, holding posters that said “Don’t extradite Assange.”

Since being removed from the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2019 and arrested by British police when Ecuador withdrew his refuge status, the 50-year-old has remained in prison.

The US Justice Department filed 17 charges against Mr Assange for breaking the Espionage Act in May 2019, while he was serving a prison sentence in the UK for breaching bail, arguing that data obtained by Wikileaks endangered lives.

Mr. Assange’s legal team argued that Wikileaks’ release of confidential information linked to the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts exposed US malfeasance and was in the public interest.