WIKILEAKS founder Julian Assange will be extradited to the US after magistrates formally issued an order paving the way for him to face espionage charges.
Home Secretary Priti Patel will now decide whether to approve the extradition, although defence lawyers may yet appeal to the High Court.
Assange has been held in prison for three yearsCredit: PA
Supporters of Assange protest outside court before the hearing on WednesdayCredit: Getty
An extradition order was issued by chief magistrate Paul Goldspring during a seven-minute hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday.
Mr Goldspring said: “In layman’s terms, I am duty bound to send your case to the Secretary of State for a decision.”
The extradition may yet be further delayed by an appeal.
The 50-year-old was not present physically during the proceedings but watched via video link.
Assange is wanted in America over an alleged conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information following WikiLeaks’ publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
He has always denied any wrongdoing.
Assange’s legal team claim he acted in the public interest as the publication of classified documents exposed US wrongdoing.
They added the prosecution was politically motivated and that he faces up to 175 years in jail.
Outside the court, scores of supporters gathered carrying placards reading “Don’t extradite Assange”.
Among them was former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who told those assembled: “He’s done absolutely no more than telling the truth to the world.
“We will carry on campaigning.”
Assange, who married his fiancee Stella Moris last month, has been held in Belmarsh prison for three years since being dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
Mrs Assange was in the public gallery for the hearing.
Julian Assange’s wife Stella Morris outside Westminster Magistrates’ Court after the hearingCredit: PA
Assange has always denied any wrongdoingCredit: EPA