Britain’s Home Secretary has revealed he has signed a request for the extradition of WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange to the US, where he is accused of violating the Espionage Act.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today program, Sajid Javid said that he signed and certified the papers on Wednesday, with the order going before the UK courts on Friday.
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.
The US justice department has filed 17 new charges against the Australian journalist. In May, he was additionally charged with one count of conspiring with Chelsea Manning, the former intelligence analyst and whistleblower, to gain access to the US Pentagon network.
Assange is currently serving a prison sentence in the UK for jumping bail. The 47 year-old was too ill to appear last month at the latest hearing at Westminster magistrates court in relation to the US request.
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The hearing has been rescheduled for Friday and, depending on the state of his health, may take place at Belmarsh prison, where he is being held.
The journalist spent over six years living under asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, out of fear Britain would hand him over to the US. He was forcibly dragged out of the building in April after the South American nation decided to evict him.
His arrest and subsequent imprisonment prompted much public outcry. Human rights activist Peter Tatchell believes a near maximum sentence of “50 weeks is excessive and disproportionate.”
The WikiLeaks co-founder’s health has been of particular concern to his supporters. His lawyer, Per Samuelson, told reporters after visiting Belmarsh at the end of May that “Assange’s health situation… was such that it was not possible to conduct a normal conversation with him.”
The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, who visited Assange in Belmarsh, claimed that he showed clear signs of degrading and inhumane treatment,