UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid has signed the United States' extradition request for Julian Assange, paving the way for the whistleblower to be extradited to the US to face various charges that include the leak of Iraq War Logs, the Afghanistan War Logs, the Guantanamo files, and hundreds of thousands of secret diplomatic cables.
Julian Assange, the founder and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks before he was replaced by Kristinn Hrafnsson, was arrested by UK Police in April after Ecuador withdrew the asylum granted to him in August 2012. He was taken to Westminster Magistrates' Court to face charges for failing to surrender to the court after it issued a warrant for his arrest in June 2012.
Assange awarded 50-week sentence for jumping bail
On 1st May, the Westminster Magistrates' Court sentenced Assange to fifty weeks in jail for defying the arrest warrant issued in his name. WikiLeaks termed his sentencing "as shocking as it is vindictive" and expressed fear that he would not receive a fair extradition hearing in the UK.
In May, the US brought forward 17 Espionage Act charge against Assange that carried a total of 175 years in prison for various crimes such the publication of the Iraq War Logs, the Afghanistan War Logs, the Guantanamo files, and hundreds of thousands of secret diplomatic cables. However, the charges did not include the computer hacking charge for which the country had placed an extradition request with the UK in the first place.
"Assange's actions risked serious harm to United States national security to the benefit of our adversaries and put the unredacted named human sources at a grave and imminent risk of serious physical harm and/or arbitrary detention," said the US Department of Justice.
"The fig leaf that this is merely about alleged computer hacking has been removed. These unprecedented charges demonstrate the gravity of the threat the criminal prosecution of Julian Assange poses to all journalists in their endeavor to inform the public about actions that have been taken by the U.S. government," said Barry J. Pollack, Defence Attorney for Julian Assange.
Home Secretary signs US' extradition request for Assange
To make matters worse for Assange, UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid recently signed the United States' extradition request paving the way for him to be extradited to the US to face a number of charges. "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 told the BBC's Today Programme.
According to WikiLeaks, the US Department of Justice is preparing to file additional charges against Assange based on the testimony of "a convicted fraudster and FBI informant Sigurdur Thordarson".
"The Trump administration is so desperate to build its case against WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange that it is using a diagnosed sociopath, a convicted conman and sex criminal, who was exposed by the highest levels of the Icelandic government as an FBI informant and who was involved in an entrapment operation in 2011 against Julian Assange," said Kristinn Hrafnsson, editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks.
Assange is scheduled to appear for an extradition hearing today in which the Courts will decide whether the US has met the tests required for an extradition to take place in line with the US-UK Extradition Act.
Latest update: Assange's next extradition hearing will take place in 2020
In a huge but temporary relief for Assange, a London Court ruled today that h will face a five-day hearing in 2020 when the courts will determine the question of his extradition to the United States. Considering that he is presently serving a 50-week-prison sentence and the next hearing is scheduled sometime after February 24th next year, it is unlikely that he will be freed before the hearing.