A British court on Friday ruled that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can be extradited to the United States to face espionage charges, The New York Times reports.
The court handed the Biden administration a victory in the effort that began under former President Donald Trump but Assange has vowed to appeal the decision to Britain’s Supreme Court.
The Justice Department’s decision to charge Assange under the Espionage Act for obtaining and publishing secret government documents has raised First Amendment concerns among civil liberties groups and journalists.
The US sought to extradite Assange to face charges, which could result in years behind bars. A lower court in Britain already ruled that the charges were legitimate but Assange’s team has argued that prison conditions in the United States are too harsh for his mental health.
Court agrees after Biden assurances:
The High Court in London said in its ruling that Assange can be extradited after the Biden administration made assurances that it would not hold him in conditions reserved for high-security inmates and that it would allow him to serve his sentence, if he is convicted, in Australia.
Assange flew to the Ecuadorean Embassy in 2013 amid an investigation of a sexual assault in Sweden, though those charges were later dropped.
He remained in the embassy until he was evicted in 2019. The US charged him weeks later and he has been in a London prison ever since.
Assange condemns decision:
Assange attorney Barry Pollack said it was “disturbing” that the court accepted the Biden administration’s “vague assurances.”
“The U.K. court reached this decision without considering whether extradition is appropriate when the United States is pursuing charges against him that could result in decades in prison, based on his having reported truthful information about newsworthy issues such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said.