Julian Assange can be extradited to the US after UK home secretary Priti Patel approved the request.
Wikileaks – the organisation founded by Assange – immediately confirmed it will appeal against the decision, calling it a “dark day” for British democracy and press freedom.
Assange, who is Australian, is being held in London’s maximum security Belmarsh prison and has fought a lengthy legal battle against his extradition to the US where he faces espionage charges for publishing leaked files, documents and media.
Veteran Australian journalist John Pilger condemned today’s decision, posting a scathing tweet: “Home Secretary Priti Patel has approved the extradition of Julian
“#Assange to an American hellhole. A new appeal will now challenge the political rottenness of British ‘justice’. Either we raise our voices as never before, or our silence colludes in the death of an heroic man.”
Extradition of Assange sends a chilling message to journalists
Pilger’s words were echoed by Amnesty International who tweeted: “Allowing Julian Assange to be extradited to the US would put him at great risk and sends a chilling message to journalists the world over.”
Amnesty’s secretary general Agnes Callamard is among many voices calling on the US to drop the charges against Assange and allow him to be freed.
Assange married his wife Stella inside Belmarsh prison – where he has been held since his removal from the Ecuadorian embassy in London by Met Police in 2019, having sought asylum there in 2012. Today Stella Assange responded to the news of Patel’s decision, saying: “The Home Secretary has approved sending Julian to the country that planned to murder him. Julian has exposed US government criminality.
“The Home Secretary is condoning not only the criminality committed by the US government against Julian, but also those US government crimes exposed by WikiLeaks.
“Julian is a political prisoner. We will use every avenue to appeal this decision. I will dedicate every waking hour to fight for justice until he is free.”
US agenda is to criminalise investigative journalism, says Wikileaks
A spokesperson for Wikileaks said: “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.
“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.
“It was in Priti Patel’s power to do the right thing. Instead she will forever be remembered as an accomplice of the United States in its agenda to turn investigative journalism into a criminal enterprise.”
A spokesperson for the UK Home Office said: “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. Extradition requests are only sent to the home secretary once a judge decides it can proceed after considering various aspects of the case.
“On 17 June, following consideration by both the Magistrates’ Court and High Court, the extradition of Mr Julian Assange to the US was ordered. Mr Assange retains the normal 14-day right to appeal.
“In this case, the UK 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, 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 is wanted in the US over leaked documents published online in 2010 and 2011 by Wikileaks which the US says broke the law and endangered lives. If his bid to overturn the extradition fails in London, Assange may petition the European Court of Human Rights to stop it.