June 17, 2022 8:48am
Updated: June 17, 2022 10:22am
The British government on Friday ordered the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States to face charges of espionage and hacking.
The British Home Office said Assange has two weeks to appeal the decision.
Since 2019, Assange has been held in a London prison following a 7-year stint in the Ecuadoran Embassy, where he sought political asylum. His attorneys in England have repeatedly argued their client will be a high suicide risk if he is returned to the conditions of U.S. detention.
"The UK courts have not found that it would be oppressive, unjust or an abuse of process to extradite Mr Assange," said the British Home Office. "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."
The office also said Assange will "only be surrendered to the requesting state when all avenues of legal challenge are exhausted."
The WikiLeaks organization issued a condemnatory statement about the decision of British Home Secretary Priti Patel.
The group called the extradition OK "a dark day for press freedom and for British democracy."
It also argued Patel was acting as "an accomplice of the United States in its agenda to turn investigative journalism into a criminal enterprise."
"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," the organization said, confirming that Assange's legal team will not accept the decision.
Assange was previously indicted by a Virginia grand jury on 18 counts, including conspiracy and the disclosure of information pertaining to the country's national defense.
Government prosecutors argue the WikiLeaks founder worked with former Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning more than a decade ago to obtain and publicly disseminate thousands of pages of military records and diplomatic communications about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Assange's legal team may ask the country's high court to hear additional arguments, or conversely, they may pursue an appeal before the continent's Court of Human Rights. However, there is no guarantee that either court will agree to hear Assange's appeal.