(PM)- Following an extradition request from the U.S., the U.K. Home Secretary Sajid Javid signed extradition papers in the case of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, which now allows formal court proceedings to take place.
Mr. Assange, a 47-year old Australian, is accused by the U.S. of offenses under the Espionage Act. Wikileaks disclosed nearly 750,000 classified documents obtained by the former U.S. intelligence operative Chelsea Manning in 2010 which related to operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as other matters.
This led to a formal investigation by U.S. authorities and to Chelsea Manning’s imprisonment later that year.
Following an extradition application by Sweden over alleged rape allegations, Assange unsuccessfully appealed and then breached his £340,000 bail conditions. From there, he sought refuge at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in August 2012 and lived there for seven years.
The consequences of his arrest led to fierce debate over freedom of speech, with sections of the public and media describing Assange’s treatment as ‘censorship’.
Assange was forcibly removed by London’s Metropolitan Police from the embassy on April 11th after Ecuador formally withdrew their grant of asylum due to what was called ‘a series of disputes’ with the Wikileaks founder.
He subsequently appeared in court for breach of his bail conditions and was sentenced to 50 weeks in prison.
On the same day, the United States government unsealed an indictment against Assange for alleged computer intrusion and on Tuesday sought his formal extradition to stand trial for offences against the Espionage Act of 1917.
US prosecutors initially charged Assange with a single count of computer intrusion, but last month added 17 new counts, including controversial charges under the Espionage Act for encouraging, receiving and publishing national defense information in concert with former Army intelligence analyst Manning.
U.K. Home Secretary Javid, who is currently contesting to be a successor to outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May, said on BBC4 radio this Thursday after signing the extradition warrant, “First of all I am very pleased the police were able to apprehend him and now he is rightly behind bars because he broke U.K. law.”
When asked about his view on the outcome of proceedings, Mr. Javid stated: “It will be for the courts to decide”.
At Assange’s last hearing in May, his lawyers told the court he was too unwell to attend and Wikileaks issued a report stating that his health was ‘deteriorating rapidly’.
Mr. Assange is currently held at the hospital wing of the high-security prison in Belmarsh, London.
The court hearing will take place tomorrow, Friday June 14th.
Porter Medium will be reporting on the outcome of the Assange extradition hearing.