The British government has approved WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange‘s extradition to the United States, a crucial step toward his trial for espionage charges, according to a statement released Friday (June 17).
“Under the Extradition Act 2003, the Secretary of State must sign an extradition order if there are no grounds to prohibit the order being made,” a Home Office spokesperson said in the statement shared to the British government’s blog page. “Extradition requests are only sent to the Home Secretary once a judge decides it can proceed after considering various aspects of the case.
The Home Office confirmed Assange will have a 14-day period to appeal its decision. The WikiLeaks founder has avoided being sent to the U.S. as he faces 18 charges, including breaking espionage laws and has spent the past three years in the Belmarsh prison in London awaiting a decision on whether he would be extradited, which was anticipated from Home Secretary Priti Patel following a British court approving his extradition to the U.S. in April.
“In this case, the UK courts have not found that it would be oppressive, unjust or an abuse of process to extradite Mr Assange,” the Home Office spokesperson added. “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 US he will be treated appropriately, including in relation to his health.”
Assange, 50, is wanted by U.S. authorities in relation to WikiLeaks‘ release of confidential U.S. military records and diplomatic cables, which the government claimed put lives in danger and could face up to 175 years in prison if convicted.