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Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange Wins Right to Take Extradition Case to UK's Top Court

Daniel Leal-Olivas | AFP | Getty Images
  • In December, the U.S. government won an appeal in London's High Court meaning Assange was a step closer to being extradited from Britain to the United States.
  • Assange is wanted by U.S. authorities over the publication of hundreds of thousands of classified military documents and diplomatic cables in 2010 and 2011.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange will be able to challenge a decision that allows him to be extradited to the U.S. on espionage charges, the U.K. High Court said Monday.

In December, the U.S. government won an appeal in London's High Court meaning Assange was a step closer to being extradited from Britain to the United States. But on Monday, the court ruled that he could now take an appeal to the country's Supreme Court.

Assange is wanted by U.S. authorities over the publication of hundreds of thousands of classified military documents and diplomatic cables in 2010 and 2011. They say his actions put lives in danger and they accuse him of 18 counts, meaning he faces a 175-year prison sentence.

In early 2021, a U.K. judge had ruled that Assange should not be extradited, after his lawyers argued that there was a high risk that he would attempt to take his own life in a U.S. prison.

Assange, an Australian citizen, has been held in the U.K.'s Belmarsh prison since 2019. He previously spent several years in Ecuador's London embassy to avoid being extradited to Sweden on sex crime accusations.

In late 2019, Swedish prosecutors dropped a nine-year investigation into a rape allegation made against Assange, eliminating the need for the U.K. to decide whether to extradite him to Sweden or the United States.

He has a diverse support base publicly calling for his freedom, which includes actress Pamela Anderson, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, British lawmakers and human rights organizations.

After the U.S. government won its appeal last month, Amnesty International called the decision a "travesty of justice," claiming Assange's U.S. indictment posed "a grave threat to press freedom both in the United States and abroad."

"If upheld, it would undermine the key role of journalists and publishers in scrutinizing governments and exposing their misdeeds would leave journalists everywhere looking over their shoulders," the organization said in a statement at the time.

Assange founded WikiLeaks in 2006, later describing the publication as "a giant library of the world's most persecuted documents."

—CNBC's Sam Shead contributed to this article.

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