A British magistrate has sent the case of Julian Assange to Home Secretary Priti Patel who will decide whether the WikiLeaks founder should be extradited to the US over the release of confidential US documents.
This step, in what has been a long-running and high-profile legal battle, was announced at a hearing in central London. It follows a March decision to deny Australian-born Assange permission to appeal against his extradition.
The extradition order must now be signed by Ms Patel, after which Assange can try to challenge the decision by judicial review. A judicial review involves a judge examining the legitimacy of a public body's decision.
Assange, 50, is wanted in the US on 18 criminal charges, including breaking a spying law, after WikiLeaks published thousands of secret US files in 2010. He denies any wrongdoing.
The extradition order was issued by chief magistrate Paul Goldspring in a seven-minute hearing at Westminster Magistrates' Court on Wednesday.
Mr Goldspring said: “In layman's terms, I am duty bound to send your case to the secretary of state for a decision.”
His lawyers have four weeks to make submissions to Ms Patel, and can also seek to appeal to the High Court. Mr Assange's lawyer, Mark Summers, told the court that the legal team had “serious submissions” to make.
Outside the court, scores of supporters gathered carrying placards reading “Don't extradite Assange”.
Among them was former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who told those assembled: “He's done absolutely no more than telling the truth to the world. We will carry on campaigning.”
Assange, who married his fiancee Stella Moris last month, has been held in Belmarsh Prison, in south-east London, for three years, after being dragged out of the Ecuadorean embassy in London.
He had sought diplomatic asylum in the Ecuadorean embassy in 2012.
Assange stayed holed up there for seven years until asylum was withdrawn following disputes with Ecuadorean authorities, and police were asked to remove him.
He was not present in court physically, although he watched the administrative proceedings by video link. His wife was in the public gallery for the hearing.