WikiLeaks Julian Assange Unlikely to Fly to U.S. Soil Anytime Soon

U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel signed off Friday on the extradition of Julian Assange to the U.S., but it still may be some time before the WikiLeaks founder flys to U.S. soil.

In a Twitter thread, the U.K. Home Office specified that Assange is now able to appeal the decision and "will only be surrendered to the requesting state when all avenues of legal challenge are exhausted." WikiLeaks announced on Twitter after the decision that Assange plans to do just that.

"Today is not the end of the fight," the organization said in a statement. "It is only the beginning of a new legal battle. We will appeal through the legal system, the next appeal will be before the High Court. We will fight louder and shout harder on the streets, we will organize and we will make Julian's story be known to all."

Assange is wanted in the U.S. for leaking thousands of classified documents related to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars in 2010 and 2011, a move that the U.S. alleges violated the law and endangered lives. He is facing espionage charges and could potentially see up to 175 years in jail if convicted, his lawyers have said.

A U.K. court ruled in April that Assange would be extradited to the U.S. from the U.K., but Patel was also required to sign the order under the Extradition Act of 2003, a Home Office spokesperson said in a statement..

Assange to Appeal Extradition
U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel signed off Friday on the extradition of Julian Assange to the U.S., but it still may be some time before the WikiLeaks founder returns to the U.S. Above, Stella Assange, wife of Julian Assange, speaks in front of the Home Office as protesters gather to Demand Julian Assange's immediate release on May 17, in London. Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

"Extradition requests are only sent to the Home Secretary once a judge decides it can proceed after considering various aspects of the case," the statement read. "On 17 June, following consideration by both the Magistrates Court and High Court, the extradition of Mr Julian Assange to the U.S. was ordered. Mr. Assange retains the normal 14-day right to appeal."

In January 2021, a U.K. district judge ruled that Assange should not be extradited to the U.S. because he would face "harsh" prison conditions and had a "substantial" risk of taking his own life. But in December 2021, the U.K. High Court ruled that Assange could be extradited after the U.S. appealed the district judge's decision. The High Court decision cited American assurances that Assange would not be held in the strictest custody decisions unless "he commits any future act which renders him liable to such conditions of detention."

In Friday's statement, the Home Office spokesperson also noted findings by U.K. courts that Assange would not face poor treatment if extradited.

"In this case, the UK courts have not found that it would be oppressive, unjust or an abuse of process to extradite Mr Assange," a Home Office spokesperson said in a statement. "Nor have they found that extradition would be incompatible with his human rights, including his right to a fair trial and to freedom of expression, and that whilst in the US he will be treated appropriately, including in relation to his health."

It was not immediately clear exactly how long Assange's appeal process may delay his ultimate extradition, should the effort fail.

Newsweek reached out to WikiLeaks and Assange lawyer Jennifer Robinson for further comment.