WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been denied permission to appeal to the UK Supreme Court against moves to extradite him to the United States, where he could face a lifetime in prison.
“The application has been refused by the Supreme Court and the reason given is that application did not raise an arguable point of law,” a Supreme Court spokesperson said on Monday.
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Washington wants to put the 50-year-old on trial in connection with the publication of 500,000 secret military files relating to the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The ruling brings the long-running legal saga in the UK courts closer to a conclusion.
A British district court judge had initially rejected a US extradition request on the grounds that Assange was likely to kill himself if held under harsh US prison conditions. US authorities later provided assurances that the WikiLeaks founder would not face the severe treatment that his lawyers said would put his physical and mental health at risk.
In December, the High Court overturned the lower court’s decision, saying that the US promises were enough to guarantee that Assange would be treated humanely.
The case is now expected to be formally sent to British Home Secretary Priti Patel for approval, after which Assange can try to challenge the decision by judicial review. A judicial review involves a judge examining the legitimacy of a public body’s decision.
WikiLeaks wrote on its Twitter account: “The case now moves to @UKHomeSecretary Priti Patel to authorise the extradition.”
BREAKING: UK Supreme Court refuses permission to appeal in Assange extradition. The case now moves to @UKHomeSecretary Priti Patel to authorize the extradition https://t.co/Falow48IyP pic.twitter.com/nLdUMkbh5m
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) March 14, 2022
Assange’s legal team said they will make representations to Patel as she considers whether to allow or block the extradition.
It also indicated it could launch further appeals on other points in the case.
“No appeal to the High Court has yet been filed by him in respect of the other important issues he raised previously,” his lawyers Birnberg Peirce Solicitors said in a statement.
“That separate process of appeal has, of course, yet to be initiated.”
Meanwhile, Barry Pollack, Assange’s US-based lawyer, said Monday that it was “extremely disappointing” that the UK’s Supreme Court is unwilling to hear the appeal.
“Mr Assange will continue the legal process fighting his extradition to the United States to face criminal charges for publishing truthful and newsworthy information,” he said.
The case has become a cause celebre for media freedom, with Assange’s supporters accusing Washington of trying to muzzle reporting of legitimate security concerns.
Assange is wanted to face trial for violating the US Espionage Act by publishing military and diplomatic files in 2010.
He could face up to 175 years in jail if found guilty, although the exact sentence is difficult to estimate.
He has been held on remand at a top-security jail in southeast London since 2019, for jumping bail in a previous case accusing him of sexual assault in Sweden.
That case was dropped but he was not released from prison after serving time for breaching bail on the grounds he was a flight risk in the US extradition case.
Assange spent seven years at Ecuador’s embassy in London to avoid being removed to Sweden but was arrested when the government changed in Quito and his diplomatic protection was removed.