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British Home Office approves U.S. extradition request for Julian Assange

In a statement by WikiLeaks, the organization described the extradition order as a 'dark day for press freedom and British democracy.'

British Home Office approves U.S. extradition request for Julian Assange
AP Photo/Alastair Grant
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Journalist and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been given the green light for his extradition to the United States by the British government. 

Assange, who is an Australian, has been held in Belmarsh prison in London for years after leaving the confines of the Ecuadorian embassy, where he was granted political asylum until the time of his arrest. 

All three U.S. presidential administrations since he was charged by the Obama administration have been eager to put Assange on trial, and imprison him in a U.S. federal prison. 

Assange faces 18 counts of soliciting, gathering and publishing classified documents, and computer hacking in relation to WikiLeaks' release of hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables and top secret military reports, which were leaked to the organization by Chelsea Manning.

If Assange is convicted on all charges, he could face up to 175 years in jail. 

The leaks exposed several war crimes committed by U.S. military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan that were subsequently covered up by the government. It was the source of much embarrassment for the Bush and Obama administrations. 

The United States government maintains that the release of the documents broke the law and endangered the lives of servicemen. 

In an announcement on Friday, the U.K. Home Office announced that Home Sec. Priti Patel signed an order to extradite Assange to the U.S. to face espionage charges. He now has only 14 days to appeal the decision. 

In a statement by WikiLeaks, the organization described the extradition order as a “dark day for press freedom and British democracy.” WikiLeaks confirmed that Assange intends to appeal the ruling.

“Julian did nothing wrong,” Stella Assange, Julian’s wife, said. “He has committed no crime and is not a criminal. He is a journalist and a publisher and he is being punished for doing his job.”

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