UK court rules Julian Assange can be extradited to US to face espionage charges

On Friday, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange came a step closer to having to face charges in the United States after Washington won an appeal in a British court over his extradition. Those charges would include spying and conspiring to hack into government computers. 

“This is the judgement of the court,” said Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett on Friday. The ruling found that a previous decision that was made against extraditing Assange could have been different as more recent assurances have been brought forth from the U.S. that he would not be held under too tight of restrictive conditions.

Burnett added, “That risk is in our judgement excluded by the assurances which are offered. It follows that we are satisfied that, if the assurances had been before the judge, she would have answered the relevant question differently.

The 50-year-old is wanted in the U.S. to face trial on 18 charges which include breaking espionage laws following WikiLeaks’ publishing thousands of secret U.S. documents in 2010. The leak included the release of classified defense information on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as on detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

WikiLeaks first came on the international scene as video footage was released of a 2007 airstrike in Baghdad that killed two Reuters journalists and others. Assange, who was not at the hearing is being held at Belmarsh prison in London and has denied any wrongdoing.

His legal team has promised to appeal his extradition, and his brother, Gabriel Shipton, and fiancée have vowed to keep fighting as well.

Shipton spoke with NBC News over the phone, saying his family has fears that Assange would “not survive” extradition, “We live in fear that…Julian will not survive this,” he said. “He’s been…crushed and you can really see the toll it’s taken on him over the years.”

Assange’s lawyers have argued that despite claims from the U.S. that assured reasonable treatment, there is still a risk that Assange could take his own life. 

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