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Julian Assange can be extradited to the US, UK High Court judge rules

The judge overturned a previous decision blocking the extradition of the WikiLeaks founder.

Julian Assange is currently remanded in custody in the UK.
Daniel Leal/AFP via Getty Images

A UK High Court judge ruled Friday that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can be extradited to the US. The ruling overturns a previous decision from a district court judge that blocked the extradition order due to concerns over the Assange's mental health and conditions in US prisons.

Friday's ruling does not necessarily mean that Assange will be extradited, as he plans to appeal other aspects of the district court judge's decision that were not found in his favor. For now he is remanded in custody in the UK.

"We will appeal this decision at the earliest possible moment," said Stella Moris, Assange's fiancee, in a statement. She added that the ruling was "dangerous and misguided" and a "grave miscarriage of justice."

Assange is wanted in the US on espionage charges and faces an 18-count indictment accusing him of conspiring to hack military databases to publish classified information about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. If convicted, Assange could receive a 175-year jail sentence, although the US government has said he would likely face a sentence of between four and six years.

The earlier ruling blocking Assange's extradition was made back in January. Following an appeal from the US State Department, the case proceeded to the High Court, which requested assurances from the US regarding the treatment of Assange should he be extradited. 

Assurances made by the US include a promise not to hold Assange at ADX, a supermax prison in Colorado, or to make him subject to "special administrative measures." The US has also agreed that if Assange is convicted it will consent to an application from Australia for him to serve his sentence there (Assange is an Australian citizen). Finally, the US has guaranteed that if he is held in the US, Assange would receive appropriate clinical and psychological treatment.

"We are pleased by the ruling, and have no further comment," said a US Department of Justice spokesperson in a statement.

Campaigners for press freedom and human rights have been critical of US attempts to extradite Assange, and expressed dismay at Friday's court ruling.

"Julian's life is once more under grave threat, and so is the right of journalists to publish material that governments and corporations find inconvenient," said Kristinn Hrafnsson, editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks. "This is about the right of a free press to publish without being threatened by a bullying superpower."