Britain’s Home Secretary Sajid Javid told BBC Radio today that he has signed the extradition order for Julian Assange, paving the way for the WikiLeaks founder to be sent to the U.S. to face charges of computer hacking and espionage.
“There’s an extradition request from the U.S. that is before the courts tomorrow, but yesterday I signed the extradition order, certified it, and that will be going in front of the courts tomorrow,” Javid said according to Australia’s public broadcaster, the ABC.
Assange is scheduled to appear in a UK court on Friday, though it’s not clear whether he’ll appear by video link or in person.
“It’s 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 continued.
Curiously, Home Secretary Javid signed the extradition paperwork despite not being on the best terms with the U.S. government right now. Javid wasn’t invited to attend formal ceremonies when President Donald Trump recently visited the UK and some believe it’s because Javid criticised Trump’s treatment of Muslims in 2017 as well as the American president’s retweets of the far right group Britain First. Javid is Muslim, though he insists he doesn’t know why he wasn’t invited to the recent U.S.-focused events in Britain.
Assange is currently being held in Belmarsh prison in southern London and is serving a 50-week sentence for jumping bail in 2012. Assange sought asylum during the summer of 2012 at Ecuador’s embassy in London, where he lived for almost seven years until this past April. Ecuador revoked Assange’s asylum and the WikiLeaks founder was physically dragged out of the embassy by British police.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, a 47-year-old Australian national, appears to be one step closer to being sent to the United States, but the deal is not done, as Javid notes. Not only does the extradition order need final approval by the UK court, there’s still the question of whether Assange could be sent to Sweden to face sexual assault charges.
The statute of limitation has expired for one of the sexual assault claims made against Assange in Sweden, but a rape claim could still be pursued if Swedish prosecutors decide to push the case. A Swedish court ruled earlier this month that Assange should not be detained in absentia, the first move under Swedish law that would have paved the way for his extradition.
Assange’s Swedish lawyer has previously claimed that Assange was too ill to even appear in court via video link, but secret video seemingly recorded by another inmate recently showed Assange looking relatively normal and healthy.
Assange has been charged with 18 counts by the U.S. Justice Department, including one under the Espionage Act, which potentially carries the death penalty. But American prosecutors supposedly gave Ecuador a “verbal pledge” that they won’t pursue death in Assange’s case, according to American news channel ABC. Obviously, a “verbal pledge” is not something that would hold up in court.