A British court on Monday denied WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange permission to appeal the decision to extradite him to the United States to face the espionage charge.
The court said it had rejected the lawsuit “because it does not raise any questionable law.”
Assange, 50, has been trying to avoid a trial in the U.S. for years for a series of allegations related to the publication of numerous classified documents by WikiLeaks more than a decade ago.
Priti Patel is now expected to be referred to Britain’s Home Secretary, who will decide whether or not to extradite him.
A British district judge initially denied a U.S. extradition request that Assange would have killed himself if he had been in harsh US prison conditions. Later, U.S. authorities assured that the founder of WikiLeaks would not deal with the harsh treatment that would endanger the physical and mental health of his lawyers.
In December, the Supreme Court overturned the court’s ruling, saying the U.S. promises were enough to ensure that Assange would be treated humanely.
Monday’s news reduces Assange’s chances, but his defense team will still seek to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights. Nick Vamos, the former extradition chief of the Crown Prosecution Service, said Assange’s lawyers could also challenge other points lost in the original district court’s decision.
Barry Pollack, a U.S.-based lawyer in Assange, said Monday that it was “very disappointing” that the British Supreme Court did not want to hear the appeal.
“Sir. Assange will continue the legal process in the fight against extradition to the United States for the publication of truthful and up-to-date information on criminal charges,” he said.
Assange’s British lawyer, Birnberg Peirce Solicitors, said they could make submissions to the Home Secretary in the next four weeks before making any decision.
U.S. Attorneys say Assang illegally helped Chelsea Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal classified diplomatic cables and military files, which were life-threatening.
But Assange’s supporters and lawyers say he was working as a journalist and was entitled to protection under the First Law of Freedom of Expression for publishing documents that exposed wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan in the United States. They argue that his case is politically motivated.
If tried, Assange’s lawyers say he could face up to 175 years in prison in the U.S., although U.S. authorities have said the sentence will be much less than that.
Assange has been in Britain’s Belmarsh High Security Prison in London since 2019, when he was arrested for jumping bail in another legal battle. Prior to that, he spent seven years inside his embassy in London, Ecuador, to avoid extradition to Sweden to face allegations of rape and sexual assault.
Sweden suspended its investigation into sex crimes in November 2019 because it took a long time.
Assange’s partner Stella Moris, who has two children with him, said on Sunday that she had been given permission to marry in prison this month.