Julian Assange faces another setback in fight against extradition to the US
London, UK - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s extradition to the US edged a step closer after judges in the UK formally issued an order paving the way for him to face espionage charges.
UK Home Secretary Priti Patel will now be responsible for deciding whether to approve the extradition after a long legal battle.
An extradition order was issued by chief judge Paul Goldspring during a seven-minute hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday.
Goldspring said, "In layman’s terms, I am duty bound to send your case to the secretary of state for a decision."
Outside the court, scores of supporters gathered, holding signs reading "Don’t extradite Assange."
The extradition could be delayed by an appeal.
Assange was not present in court physically, although he watched the administrative proceedings by video-link from Belmarsh Prison. He appeared to form a heart shape with his hands during part of the hearing.
The 50-year-old is wanted by US authorities over an alleged conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defense information following WikiLeaks’ publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
His legal team claimed the publication of classified documents exposed US wrongdoing and were in the public interest. They said the prosecution was politically motivated and that he faces up to 175 years in jail.
Assange, who married his fiancée, Stella Moris, last month, has been held in Belmarsh prison for three years since being dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London. His wife was in the public gallery for the hearing.
Noise from the supporters could be heard outside the courtroom.
Among them was former UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who told those assembled: "He's done absolutely no more than telling the truth to the world."
"We will carry on campaigning," he said.
Cover photo: REUTERS