WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's fight to avoid extradition to the United States received a major boost when the High Court in London ruled that US assurances to Assange were unsatisfactory and ordered Assange to appear for an appeal hearing.

The court asked the US to provide satisfactory assurances that it would not seek the death penalty and would allow Assange to stand trial based on his right to freedom of expression.

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In the absence of assurances from the US, Assange will be allowed to appeal on the grounds of violation of freedom of expression and the possibility of the death penalty, the statement said.

Two senior judges said in a brief ruling that the US assurances were not sufficient and that they would allow the appeal to proceed.

UP TO 175 YEARS IN PRISON

In 2010, Assange published thousands of classified documents that also provided evidence of US crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Assange's lawyers and supporters say he could face up to 175 years in prison if extradited to the US, while the US side argues that the prison sentence could be four to six years.

US prosecutors have charged Assange, 52, with 18 crimes in connection with his publication of classified US military files and diplomatic correspondence on WikiLeaks.

Assange has been fighting a legal battle in British courts for more than 13 years to avoid extradition to the US.

Editor: David Goodman