Extradition of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange approved by UK judge

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A U.K. judge has formally approved the extradition of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to the United States on Wednesday, forwarding the request to Interior Minister Priti Patel for final approval.

While Assange still has means to appeal the decision, the move represents a major step toward Assange’s prosecution for spying charges in the U.S. related to his publication of sensitive military and diplomatic documents.

JULIAN ASSANGE SUFFERED STROKE DURING OCTOBER APPEAL HEARING, FIANCEE CLAIMS

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 18:  WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaks during a press conference, where he confirmed he "will be leaving the embassy soon", in the Ecuadorian Embassy on August 18, 2014 in London, England. Mr Assange has been living in the embassy since June 2012 in an attempt to avoid extradition to Sweden where he faces allegations of sexual assault.  (Photo by John Stillwell - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

LONDON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 18:  WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaks during a press conference, where he confirmed he “will be leaving the embassy soon”, in the Ecuadorian Embassy on August 18, 2014 in London, England. Mr Assange has been living in the embassy since June 2012 in an attempt to avoid extradition to Sweden where he faces allegations of sexual assault.  (Photo by John Stillwell – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Assange’s lawyers now have four weeks to submit arguments to Patel against his extradition. They may also appeal the case to a higher court, but there is no guarantee the case would be heard, according to the BBC.

The U.S. has charged Assange with 17 counts of espionage and one count of computer misuse, according to the Department of Justice. The charges arise from accusations that he helped former Army data analyst Chelsea Manning illegally obtain sensitive U.S. documents.

CHELSEA MANNING WILL GOT BACK TO JAIL AFTER REFUSING TO TESTIFY TO GRAND JURY PROBING WIKILEAKS

FILE -  In this June 5, 2013, file photo Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning, then-Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, is escorted out of a courthouse in Fort Meade, Md., after the third day of a court martial. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

FILE –  In this June 5, 2013, file photo Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning, then-Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, is escorted out of a courthouse in Fort Meade, Md., after the third day of a court martial. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

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Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison following an arrest in 2010. President Barack Obama commuted Manning’s sentence in 2010, however, leading to Manning’s release the same year.

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