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Australia says will not challenge Assange extradition

SYDNEY (AFP) – Australia will not challenge Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s extradition to the United States (US) and has confidence in the British judicial system, a senior minister said yesterday.

A British court issued a formal order on Wednesday for the Australian national to be extradited to the US, where he would face trial for the publication of a trove of secret files relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

If convicted, he could face up to 175 years in prison.

“We have confidence in the independence and integrity of the British justice system,” Australian Senator Simon Birmingham told ABC yesterday.

Australia’s government was not arguing against the extradition, he said.

“This is a process that will be able to continue to work through that system,” said Birmingham, who is Australia’s Finance Minister.

Following the British court’s order, Assange’s lawyers have until May 18 to make submissions to Britain’s Interior Minister Priti Patel, with whom the final decision about his extradition rests.

Birmingham noted that Assange’s right of appeal remained – he can seek appeal to the High Court – and said Australia would continue to provide consular assistance to its jailed citizen.

A coalition of 25 human rights groups – including the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders – has challenged Assange’s extradition saying it poses a “grave threat to press freedom both in the US and abroad”.

The Australian has been fighting to avoid extradition for more than a decade, dramatically taking refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over sexual assault charges.