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A sticker of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is attached to a sign outside HMP Belmarsh prison in London, Britain, January 6, 2021 (Photo Credit: Reuters/Paul Childs)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Friday moved a step closer to facing criminal charges in the United States for one of the biggest ever leaks of classified information after Washington won an appeal over his extradition in an English court.

U.S. authorities accuse Australian-born Assange, 50, of 18 counts relating to WikiLeaks’ release of vast troves of confidential U.S. military records and diplomatic cables which they said had put lives in danger.

Assange’s supporters cast him as an anti-establishment hero who has been persecuted by the United States for exposing U.S. wrongdoing and double-dealing across the world from Afghanistan and Iraq to Washington.

At the Royal Courts of Justice in London, the United States won an appeal against a ruling by a London District Judge that Assange should not be extradited because he was likely to commit suicide in a U.S. prison.

Judge Timothy Holroyde said he was satisfied with a package of assurances given by the United States about the conditions of Assange’s detention, including a pledge not to hold him in a so-called “ADX” maximum security prison in Colorado and that he could be transferred to Australia to serve his sentence if convicted.

Further hurdles remain before Assange could be sent to the United States after an odyssey which has taken him from teenage hacker in Melbourne to years holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy in London and then incarcerated in a maximum-security prison.

The legal wrangling will go to the Supreme Court, the United Kingdom’s final court of appeal.

“It is highly disturbing that a U.K. court has overturned a decision not to extradite Julian Assange, accepting vague assurances by the United States government,” Assange’s lawyer, Barry Pollack, said. “Mr. Assange will seek review of this decision by the U.K. Supreme Court.”

Supporters of Assange gathered outside of the court after the ruling, chanting “free Julian Assange” and “no extradition”. They tied hundreds of yellow ribbons to the court’s gates and held up placards saying “journalism is not a crime”.

Judge Holroyde said the case must now be remitted to Westminster Magistrates’ Court with the direction judges send it to Home Secretary Priti Patel to decide whether or not Assange should be extradited.