WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is one step closer to extradition as a UK judge ruled that the fate of Assange — who published thousands of classified U.S. documents from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars — will rest in the hands of the British Interior Minister Priti Patel.
Patel will have to sign off on the extradition order, although Assange can still appeal. But up and down the judicial ladder, Assange has lost at every turn.
Described by one of Assange’s lawyers as a “brief but significant moment in the case,” the development Wednesday is the latest blow for Assange, who faces trial under the Espionage Act in the United States. The 50-year-old Australian faces 18 U.S. criminal charges stemming from WikiLeaks’ publishing of thousands of diplomatic cables and classified files in 2010. Assange would stand trial in federal court in Northern Virginia.
If convicted, Assange faces up to 175 years in prison. He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
Assange’s attorneys have four weeks to file submissions to Patel before she is expected to rule on the extradition, according to the AP. Mark Summers, one of Assange’s lawyers, told the court that they planned to submit “serious submissions” to Patel, according to the Guardian.
U.S. prosecutors allege that Assange’s actions in publishing after-action reports from battles and top-secret analyses threatened the lives of soldiers still in the field. His supporters claim that he’s an ‘investigative journalist” courageous in exposing wrongdoing.
The jury is still out as to whether Assange’s leaks cost U.S. lives or damaged the war effort.
In fact, hundreds of people may have had their lives ruined by Assange’s leaks.
The lawyer said the dissemination of specific classified un-redacted documents put dissidents in Afghanistan and Iraq at ‘risk of serious harm, torture or even death’.
Mr Lewis added: ‘The US is aware of sources, whose redacted names and other identifying information was contained in classified documents published by WikiLeaks, who subsequently disappeared, although the US can’t prove at this point that their disappearance was the result of being outed by WikiLeaks.’
Assange is currently 50 years old. He will be 60 or 65 before he’s finally put behind bars, where he belongs. He has received far more notoriety than a low-life hacker deserves, and it will only get worse once he goes on trial in the U.S.