British Home Secretary Sajid Javid has signed an extradition order to send WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States to face espionage charges.
The US Justice Department this week formally requested Britain extradite Assange, 47, to face charges that he conspired to hack government computers and violated an espionage law.
Mr Javid told BBC Radio 4 Today on Thursday the final decision on Assange’s extradition would be up to the court.
Michele it simply means UK government has no objection. Now matter for courts. The current extradition papers relate to US. Filed this week.
— Greg Barns (@BarnsGreg) June 13, 2019
“There’s an extradition request from the US 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,” Mr Javid said.
“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.
“We’ve got a legitimate extradition request so I’ve signed it, but the final decision is now with the courts.”
Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson told the ABC the signing of the order was a normal part of the process and the extradition challenge now begins.
The formal extradition request will now be reviewed by British courts in a process that could take months or even years.
Assange, who is serving a 50-week sentence for skipping bail, is expected to face court via video link on Friday for the extradition hearing on Friday local time.
The WikiLeaks founder was arrested by British police in April after being holed up for seven years inside the Ecuadorian embassy, where he sought political asylum in an effort to avoid being extradited to either the US or Sweden, where he was facing sexual assault charges.
Assange claimed that those charges were a ploy to get him extradited to the US.
Home Secretary reveals that he signed and certified an order for the extradition of Julian Assange yesterday – but "the final decision is now with the courts". #r4today
— CJ McKinney (@mckinneytweets) June 13, 2019
Shortly after his arrest, the US charged him with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
Meanwhile, Assange’s lawyers say his health has deteriorated in recent years to the extent where he could barely hold a conversation.
Massimo Moratti, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Europe, said Assange faces a “real risk of serious human rights violations” if sent to the US.
“The British government must not accede to the US extradition request for Julian Assange as he faces a real risk of serious human rights violations if sent there,” Moratti said in a statement.
“The UK must comply with the commitment already made that he would not be sent anywhere he could face torture, ill-treatment or the death penalty.”