British Home Secretary Priti Patel has approved the extradition of WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange to the United States to face criminal charges.
The Australian hacker turned media activist is wanted by US authorities on 18 counts, including a spying charge, relating to WikiLeaks’ release of vast troves of confidential US military records and diplomatic cables which Washington said had put lives in danger.
Reuters reports that to his supporters he’s an anti-establishment hero who has been victimised because he exposed US wrongdoing in conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that his prosecution is a politically-motivated assault on journalism and free speech.
The Pope has written a letter to Mr. Assange and some Christian groups have supported him while disapproving of his lifestyle.
They welcomed his efforts to reveal human rights abuses, injustices and government corruption.
The British Home Office said in a statement: “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.”
Originally, a British judge ruled that Mr. Assange should not be deported, saying his mental health problems meant he would be at risk of suicide if convicted and held in a maximum security prison.
This was overturned after the US gave a package of assurances, including a pledge he could be transferred to Australia to serve any sentence.
He’s expected to launch an appeal at London’s High Court which must give its approval for a challenge to proceed.
He can ultimately seek to take his case to the UK’s Supreme Court.
With Australian Associated Press