Julian Assange's Court Win and US Extradition Battle Explained

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange on Monday won the right to appeal a decision that would have brought him step closer to being extradited from the U.K. to the U.S.

Assange, 50, was given permission by the High Court in London to appeal his case to the U.K. Supreme Court.

Monday's ruling means Assange, an Australian citizen, has passed the first hurdle in his bid to overturn a December decision that he could be sent to the U.S., where he is wanted over Wikileaks' publication of thousands of classified documents in 2010 and 2011.

Assange remains in custody at London's high-security Belmarsh prison pending his extradition battle.

If extradited and convicted in the United States, Assange faces up to 175 years in prison on 18 charges under the Espionage Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

"Make no mistake, we won today in court," Assange's fiancee, Stella Moris, said outside the courthouse on Monday, the Associated Press reported. "We will fight this until Julian is free."

The U.K. Supreme Court must now agree to accept Assange's case before it can proceed. Such a decision on applications for permission to appeal can take up to eight sitting weeks, according to the court's website.

Assange now has 14 days to make an application to the U.K. Supreme Court.

The court's website states that applications for permission to appeal are considered by an appeal panel of three Justices, and applications are generally decided without a hearing.

A request to expedite a case may be made in cases involving liberty of the subject, urgent medical intervention, or the well-being of children, it says

In January last year, a judge ruled that there was a risk Assange would, because of his mental health, kill himself if he were to be extradited to the U.S., where he would likely be held under "harsh" prison conditions.

But on December 10, the U.K. High Court overturned the lower court's ruling after the U.S. appeal charged that the judge was incorrect in her decision on Assange's mental state.

The U.S. had, according to a summary of the court ruling, assured that the 50-year-old would not be detained at a maximum security prison, he would be treated humanely, and would serve his sentence in Australia if found guilty.

Assange would also get "appropriate clinical and psychological treatment," the U.S. had said.

The charges against Assange stem from a leak of confidential documents more than a decade ago that exposed wrongdoing by the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. government says he acted illegally in obtaining and releasing the material.

Rights group Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday it "cautiously" welcomes Monday's decision.

"We are glad that Julian Assange will be allowed to apply to appeal his extradition in the UK's Supreme Court," CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney said in a statement.

"The prosecution of the Wikileaks founder in the United States would set a deeply harmful legal precedent that would allow the prosecution of reporters for news gathering activities, and must be stopped."

Mahoney added: "We strongly encourage the U.S. Justice Department to halt extradition proceedings and drop all charges against Assange."

Julian Assange US extradition battle
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange gestures from the window of a prison van as he is driven out of Southwark Crown Court in London on May 1, 2019, after having been sentenced to 50 weeks in prison for breaching his bail conditions in 2012. Assange, 50, was given permission by the High Court in London on Monday to appeal his case to the U.K. Supreme Court. DANIEL LEAL/AFP/Getty Images