UK agrees to U.S. extradition of Julian Assange

STORY: Britain has approved the extradition of WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange to the United States to face criminal charges.

The move by the UK's interior minister Priti Patel brings Assange's long-running legal saga closer to a conclusion.

He is wanted by U.S. authorities on 18 counts.

Those include a spying charge relating to WikiLeaks' release of vast troves of confidential U.S. military records and diplomatic cables which Washington said had put lives in danger.

Speaking on Friday (June 17), his wife Stella said he would appeal the decision.

"This was always a possibility that Priti Patel would approve sending Julian to the country that has plotted to assassinate him. To the contrary, that Julian expose the crime of and we're not at the end of the road here. We're going to fight this. We're going to use every appeal avenue. And we're going to fight."

The UK interior ministry said in a statement that, quote, "the UK courts have not found that it would be oppressive, unjust or an abuse of process to extradite Mr Assange."

Originally, a British judge ruled that Assange should not be deported, saying his mental health meant he would be at risk of suicide if convicted and held in a maximum security prison.

But this was overturned on an appeal after the United States gave a package of assurances, including a pledge he could be transferred to Australia to serve any sentence.

Patel's decision does not mean the end of Australian-born Assange's legal fight though, which has been going on for more than a decade and could continue for many more months.

He has 14 days to appeal to London's High Court, which must give its approval for a challenge, and he could ultimately seek to take his case to the United Kingdom Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights.

Assange's supporters view him as an anti-establishment hero, victimized because he exposed U.S. wrongdoing in conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

They believe his prosecution is a politically motivated assault on journalism and free speech.

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