UK court orders US extradition of Julian Assange on espionage charges

His fate now lies in the hands of UK home secretary Priti Patel.

Henry Nicholls / reuters

A court in London has formally issued the order to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the US. That puts his fate in the hands of UK home secretary Priti Patel, who'll be the one deciding whether Assange will be sent back to the US where he's set to face espionage charges. WikiLeaks made waves in 2010 after publishing thousands of classified documents and diplomatic cables sent to the US State Department. Assange is wanted in the US for 18 criminal charges due to those leaks, and he could face up to 175 years in prison if convicted.

Assange sought refuge at the Ecuadorian Embassy of London in 2012 and stayed there for years until his asylum was withdrawn in 2019. WikiLeaks claimed back then that the embassy spied on its founder and took photos, videos and audio recordings of him. He was arrested from the embassy, and the US government has been trying to get him extradited since then.

In January 2021, a British court ruled that he shouldn't be extradited to the United States to stand trial, because "the risk to his mental and physical wellbeing was too great." However, the US government appealed and argued that he had no history of "serious and enduring mental illness." A UK appeals court reversed the previous ruling in December 2021, opening the doors for his extradition.

Assange joined the most recent trial via video call from the Belmarsh Prison in London. The extradition order was issued by Paul Goldspring, the chief magistrate, who said during the trial: "I am duty bound to send your case to the secretary of state for a decision." According to The Guardian, Assange's side will have the chance to sway Patel's decision by sending the home secretary "serious submissions" and could also challenge issues he lost in court but haven't appealed yet. And it is possible to convince a home secretary to block extraditions — former UK home secretary Theresa May blocked Scottish hacker Gary McKinnon's extradition on human rights grounds. British activist Lauri Love also successfully convinced the UK High Court to side with him when he appealed his extradition orders.