Julian Assange: Extradition order signed by home secretary ahead of WikiLeaks founder’s court hearing

Forty-seven-year-old Australian expected to appear in court via video link from Belmarsh prison on Friday

Tom Batchelor
Thursday 13 June 2019 14:05
Julian Assange: Swedish prosecutors reopen investigation into rape allegation made against Wikileaks co-founder

A request to extradite Julian Assange to the US has been signed by the home secretary but must still be approved by a judge on Friday before the WikiLeaks founder can be sent to face trial in America.

Sajid Javid said he had signed the extradition order but maintained it was a “decision ultimately for the courts”.

On Tuesday, justice officials in Washington formally submitted an extradition request to the UK over claims Assange published classified information and conspired with former US army soldier Chelsea Manning to crack a Defence Department computer password.

The 47-year-old was evicted in April from Ecuador’s embassy in London, where he had been holed up since 2012 after the country granted him political asylum.

He was arrested by police and is currently serving a 50-week sentence for breaching bail. Sweden is also pursuing him for questioning about an alleged rape, which Assange has denied.

Speaking on the Today programme, Mr Javid said: “I am very pleased that the police were finally able to apprehend him and now he is rightly behind bars because he broke UK law.

“Yesterday I signed the extradition order and certified it and that will be going in front of the courts tomorrow.”

Asked whether he would like to see Assange extradited to the US, the Tory leadership hopeful said he wanted to “see justice done at all times” but that it would be for the court to decide.

At a previous hearing in May, Assange was too ill to appear via video link, but a judicial source said there was no indication he would be unable to take part in Friday’s hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

Assange was moved to the medical wing of HMP Belmarsh last month when his health deteriorated and he “dramatically lost weight”, WikiLeaks said.

The indictment against Assange, which includes Espionage Act charges, was issued by the US Justice Department last month and is pending in court in Virginia.

Julian Assange in a prison van leaving Southwark Crown Court in May

Assange was initially charged with a single computer crime violation over allegations that he worked with Manning to crack a government password. Some legal experts have said the additional Espionage Act charges might slow or complicate the extradition process to the extent the UK views them as political offences and therefore exempt from extradition.

Manning, who spent seven years in a military prison for delivering a trove of classified information to Assange before having her sentence commuted by the then-president Barack Obama, has been jailed for civil contempt in Virginia after refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks.

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