A British court on Wednesday approved WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s extradition to the United States to face espionage charges, CNN reports.
A London court issued a formal extradition order during a hearing on Wednesday.
The order still has to be signed by UK Home Secretary Priti Patel before Assange can be sent to the United States.
Assange can still appeal the decision but the order moves him closer to US custody.
Assange is wanted on 18 criminal charges in the US after WikiLeaks published thousands of classified diplomatic cables in 2010.
He faces up to 175 years in prison.
A British court initially rejected a US extradition request, expressing concerns that Assange was likely to commit suicide if held under harsh American prison conditions.
The US later provided the UK with assurances that Assange would not face treatment that his lawyers argued would put his physical and mental health at risk.
A court in December overturned the lower court ruling, arguing that the US assurances were enough.
Assange has been held at a London prison since 2019 after he was evicted from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London after seven years while facing extradition to Sweden to face rape charges until the statute of limitations expired.
Human rights groups condemn:
"Publishing information that is in the public interest is a cornerstone of media freedom," said Agnes Callamard, the secretary-general of Amnesty International. "Extraditing Julian Assange to face allegations of espionage for publishing classified information would set a dangerous precedent and leave journalists everywhere looking over their shoulders."
"The charges against Assange should never have been brought in the first place. It is not too late for the U.S. authorities to set things right and drop the charges," Callamard added. "In the meantime, given the politically motivated nature of the case and its grave implications for freedom of expression, the U.K. should refrain from representing the USA in any further appeals."