Sajid Javid signs US extradition request for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange – where he faces up to 175 years in prison for ‘leaking military secrets’
- Julian Assange is currently being held in prison in the UK after skipping bail
- U.S. authorities want to extradite him to stand trial for espionage charges
- British Home Secretary reveals he has signed request made by Washington
- The case will come before court, where Assange will be able to argue against it
A request to extradite Julian Assange from the UK to the U.S. has been signed by the British Home Secretary, it emerged today.
Sajid Javid said he signed the request ahead of court hearing tomorrow, making it increasingly more likely that Assange will be sent to the U.S. to stand trial for hacking classified information, than Sweden, where he is being investigated over an alleged sex attack.
Assange is wanted across the Atlantic for what U.S. officials call ‘one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States’.
If found guilty of all the charges against him, the Wikileaks founder could be jailed for 175 years.
An extradition request to take Julian Assange (pictured on his way to prison in April) to the U.S. has been signed by the British Home Secretary, meaning he is one step closer to being sent to the United States for trial for a range of hacking charges
Sajid Javid, pictured pitching to become UK Prime Minister yesterday, has signed the extradition request, which is one more step along the road to sending Assange to the U.S.
Mr Javid told Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘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.
He added: ‘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.’
Assange declined a chance to consent to his extradition, suggesting his lawyers will argue against it when it comes before a court and potentially appeal.
Any extradition is still unlikely to take place before at least the end of the year.
Extradition lawyer Thomas Garner, from Gherson Solicitors, said today: ‘I would expect the court to set a preliminary timetable for the extradition process tomorrow.
‘It is likely to be many months before any hearing at the magistrates’ court and of course either side may then seek to appeal that decision in due course.
On Monday, Assange was today visited by his Chinese artist Ai Weiwei (left) and his father John Shipton (right) at HMP Belmarsh in London
US actress Pamela Anderson also visited Assange at the high-security jail on May 7
The 47-year-old is currently being held in London’s high-security Belmarsh prison after he was jailed for 50 weeks by a UK court for breaching his bail by hiding out in the Ecuadorian embassy.
In the U.S., he faces an 18-count indictment including charges of soliciting and publishing classified information and conspiring with former Army private Chelsea Manning to crack a Defense Department computer password.
Assange has insisted he was ‘doing journalism that has won many, many awards and protected many, many people’.
He has hosted a number of high-profile visitors in jail, including former Baywatch star Pamela Anderson and Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.
Ten days ago, a court in Sweden rejected a request by the country’s prosecutors that Assange be ‘detained in absentia’ during an investigation into an alleged rape.
In this image which emerged from prison last week, the Wikileaks founder can be seen, arms crossed and looking skeptical, talking to inmates
The ruling doesn’t mean Sweden preliminary rape investigation will be abandoned, only that Assange won’t be extradited to Sweden for now.
Swedish officials are understood to be keen to question Assange in jail in Britain. He denies the alleged sex attack.
The likelihood of Assange being sent to Sweden rather than the U.S. falls with every step the U.S. authorities make, as the harder it becomes for the Home Secretary to give precedence to their competing request.
What is the process for extraditing someone to the US and how far down the path is Julian Assange?
1. Extradition request is made to the Secretary of State. In Assange’s case, this took place on Tuesday, when the U.S. authorities sent a formal request to Sajid Javid.
2. Secretary of State decides whether to certify the request. In Assange’s case, this happened yesterday.
3. Judge decides whether to issue a warrant for arrest. This will not be necessary in Assange’s case, as he is already in custody for breaching his bail.
4. Preliminary hearing. This is due to take place tomorrow. An earlier attempt to hold the hearing was delayed when Assange was said to be too ill to come to court.
5. Extradition hearing. A full hearing of the issues will later be presented to a court. U.S. Authorities will be represented by one team of lawyers. Assange will be represented by his own lawyers. A judge decides whether there is ‘prima facie evidence of guilt’ and whether extradition would breach a person’s human rights.
6. Appeal. A judge’s decision to extradite someone can be appealed in the High Court. Assange declined to consent to be extradite, suggesting he is planning to appeal any decision against him.
7. Secretary of State decides whether to order extradition. The final decision is then made by the Home Secretary. Mr Javid’s comments today suggest that if he were to still be Home Secretary at that time, this would be a formality.
8. Possible further appeal. People facing extradition can also appeal the Home Secretary’s rubber stamping of their case in the High Court and potentially the Supreme Court. The history of Assange’s case suggests this is likely if the case gets this far.