Home Secretary Priti Patel has signed an order to extradite Julian Assange to the United States, it has been announced.
The WikiLeaks founder described the decision as a “dark day” for press freedom and British democracy.
The Australian is currently being held at Belmarsh prison in London after mounting a lengthy battle to avoid being extradited.
Ms Patel made the decision on Friday (17 June), although Mr Assange’s legal team said they will mount an appeal.
A Home Office spokesperson 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.”
‘A dark day for press freedom’
Julian Assange’s wife Stella responded to the news in a statement saying the decision marked a “dark day for press freedom and British democracy”, and insisted Mr Assange “did nothing wrong”.
She said: “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.
“Foreign laws now determine the limits of press freedom in this country and the journalism that won the industry’s most prestigious prizes has been deemed an extraditable offence and worthy of a life sentence.
Plans to appeal
The legal team for Mr Assange confirmed plans to mount an appeal before the High Court and said they will work to ensure his story is “known to all”.
WikiLeaks said Mr Assange is facing a “political case” in which there is an attempt to “disappear him into the darkest recesses of their prison system for the rest of his life to deter others from holding governments to account”.
Ms Assange added in a statement: “The path to Julian’s freedom is long and tortuous. Today is not the end of the fight. It is only the beginning of a new legal battle.
“We will appeal through the legal system, the next appeal will be before the High Court. We will fight louder and shout harder on the streets, we will organise and we will make Julian’s story be known to all.
“Make no mistake, this has always been a political case. Julian published evidence that the country trying to extradite him committed war crimes and covered them up; tortured and rendered; bribed foreign officials; and corrupted judicial inquiries into US wrongdoing.
“Their revenge is to try to disappear him into the darkest recesses of their prison system for the rest of his life to deter others from holding governments to account.
“We will not let that happen. Julian’s freedom is coupled to all our freedoms. We will fight to return Julian to his family and to regain freedom of expression for us all.”