In brief: The UK’s Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, has signed a request for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to be extradited to the United States.
Back in April, Assange was arrested after Ecuador withdrew his political asylum status. The Australian national had been given refuge in the South American country’s London embassy in 2012 while on bail in the UK over charges of sexual assault and rape in Sweden.
After Assange was sentenced to 50 weeks in prison for skipping bail, the US charged him with 17 new counts under the espionage act, which followed a previous charge of conspiring with former intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to gain access to the Pentagon network.
The US Justice Department has formally requested Britain extradite Assange to the United States, where he faces a maximum 175-year prison sentence.
Speaking on the Today Program, Javid said: “He’s rightly behind bars. There’s an extradition request from the US that is before the courts tomorrow, but yesterday I signed the extradition order and certified it and that will be going in front of the courts tomorrow.”
Javid added that it is now down to the courts to decide whether to extradite Assange, but the latest move brings the process one step closer to completion.
“It is a decision ultimately for the courts, but there is a very important part of it for the home secretary and I want to see justice done at all times and we’ve got a legitimate extradition request, so I’ve signed it, but the final decision is now with the courts,” Javid added.
A hearing related to the US request had been set for last month, but, because Assange was too ill to attend, it is now taking place tomorrow.
Sweden had also been looking to extradite Assange as it reopened the 2010 rape case, but a court in Uppsala recently ruled that he did not need to be detained, meaning prosecutors can’t apply for an extradition warrant right now.