The potential extradition of Julian Assange to the U.S. to face an 18-count indictment of espionage-related charges took a large step forward Wednesday when U.K. Home Secretary Sajid Javid said he had signed off on the extradition order filed by the U.S. government earlier this week. The Conservative government’s certification of the American request to extradite now moves the WikiLeaks founder’s case to the courts, where it will be determined whether the conditions exist to transfer Assange into American custody.
Javid told the BBC on Thursday that the Department of Justice formally submitted its extradition request on Tuesday and he signed and certified it the following day. “[Assange] is rightly behind bars,” Javid said. “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, who spent seven years in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, is currently serving a 50-week sentence in the U.K. for skipping bail in relation to an unrelated sex crimes case in Sweden. The Ecuadorian government rescinded its asylum offer in April and Assange was arrested by British authorities. In May, the U.S. government added 17 charges alleging that Assange violated the Espionage Act in the process of soliciting and publishing confidential information passed on to WikiLeaks by Chelsea Manning.
Despite the U.K. government’s signing off on the DOJ request, Assange’s extradition is still far from a certainty and the process likely nowhere near completion. “Westminster magistrates’ court will hold an administrative hearing into Assange’s case on Friday but has not yet set a date for a full extradition hearing, which could take place later this year,” according to the Financial Times. “Assange is fighting the extradition and is likely to argue that his removal to the U.S. breaches his human rights. The court will decide whether the case meets the legal test for Assange to be extradited to the US; it will not decide whether he is guilty or innocent of the U.S. allegations.”