UK Court Orders Delay Extradition of WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange to US on Espionage Charges

LONDON (AP) -- A British court says Julian Assange can't immediately be extradited to the United States on espionage charges, in a partial victory for the WikiLeaks founder.

Two High Court judges said they would grant Assange a new appeal unless U.S. authorities give further assurances about what will happen to him. The ruling means the legal saga, which has dragged on for more than a decade, will continue.

The case has been adjourned until May 20.

Judges Victoria Sharp and Jeremy Johnson said that if no assurances are filed by the U.S., they will grant Assange permission to appeal extradition on grounds including breach of freedom of expression, and because he might receive the death penalty.

During a two-day hearing in the High Court in February, Assange's lawyer Edward Fitzgerald said American authorities were seeking to punish him for WikiLeaks' "exposure of criminality on the part of the U.S. government on an unprecedented scale," including torture and killings.

Assange's supporters have argued he is a journalist protected by the First Amendment who exposed U.S. military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan that was in the public interest. They have argued his prosecution is politically motivated and he can't get a fair trial in the U.S.

The U.S. government said Assange's actions went beyond journalism by soliciting, stealing and indiscriminately publishing classified government documents that endangered innocent lives.