A British judge at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in the UK on Wednesday issued a formal order to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, 50, to the United States. The decision now rests with interior minister Priti Patel. However, Assange may still appeal within 14 days of any decision to approve the extradition. Washington wants to put him on trial on 18 criminal charges, including breaking a spying law, in connection with the publication of 500,000 secret military files relating to the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Assange’s lawyers have vowed to make representations to Patel. Supporters and lawyers for Assange argue that he was acting as a journalist and is entitled to First Amendment protections of freedom of speech. They also argue that his case is politically motivated. Assange’s lawyers say he could face up to 175 years in jail if he is convicted in the US.
Assange has claimed that he is innocent. He has been held at Britain’s high-security Belmarsh Prison in London since 2019 where he watched the latest proceedings by video link. He spoke only to confirm his name and date of birth. Chief magistrate Paul Goldspring told Assange: “I am duty bound to send your case to the secretary of state for a decision whether or not you should be extradited.” Last month, Assange and his partner Stella Moris married in a prison ceremony.