Britain’s interior minister said Thursday he had certified the US request to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on espionage grounds in a procedural move that opens the way for a court battle.
The US Justice Department confirmed on Tuesday that it had submitted a formal extradition request. British Home Secretary Sajid Javid said he signed it on Wednesday.
The 47-year-old had been sheltering in Ecuador’s embassy in London for seven years until his arrest on April 11 when Quito finally withdrew his asylum.
He is now serving a 50-week sentence in jail for skipping bail when he entered the embassy in 2012.
“I’m very pleased that the police were finally able to apprehend him and now he’s rightly behind bars because he broke UK law,” Javid told BBC radio.
“There’s an extradition request from the US that is before the courts tomorrow but yesterday I… certified it.
“I want to see justice done at all times and we’ve got a legitimate extradition request, so I’ve signed it, but the… decision is now with the courts.”
If basic criteria are met, the home secretary must certify a valid extradition request from the United States before the courts make a decision on whether the person can be extradited.
The secretary then decides whether to order an extradition.
Assange, who is being held in the top-security Belmarsh prison in southeast London, is not expected to attend Friday’s hearing in person but could take part via video-link, although it will be largely procedural.
The “first real confrontation of arguments” in court will not be for several weeks or months, according to WikiLeaks editor Kristinn Hrafnsson.
Washington has accused Assange of violating the US Espionage Act by publishing military and diplomatic files in 2010.
The 18 charges reject his claim he was simply a publisher receiving leaked material — which would be protected under press freedom legislation.
The case has upset some US and other world media, which argue that Assange’s activities differ very little from their own. They fear his case could set a precedent for limiting free speech and media rights.
Melania Trump ripped for bragging about helping children while her husband runs concentration camps for kids
Melania Trump was ripped on Monday for pushing her signature "Be Best" campaign against bullying while her husband, President Donald Trump, runs concentration camps for children along the southern border.
"Looking forward to collaborating with all of our #BeBest Ambassadors. Delighted to be working alongside so many people both inside and outside of government to better the lives of children everywhere!" Melania Trump tweeted Monday.
The response was some of the harshest since she wore an "I Don't Care" jacked to visit the border.
Border Patrol blocking Americans from donating toothbrushes and diapers for detained children
On Sunday, Austin Savage and five of his friends huddled into an SUV and went to an El Paso Target, loading up on diapers, wipes, soaps and toys.
About $340 later, the group headed to a Border Patrol facility holding migrant children in nearby Clint with the goal of donating their goods. Savage said he and his friends had read an article from The New York Times detailing chaos, sickness and filth in the overcrowded facility, and they wanted to help.
But when they arrived, they found that the lobby was closed. The few Border Patrol agents — Savage said there were between eight and 10 of them — moving in and out of a parking facility ignored them.
Michael Flynn’s legal team is making bizarre moves — signaling he’s still hoping for a Trump pardon
When disgraced former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn recently hired a new firebrand lawyer, Sidney Powell, it suggested he could be maneuvering to change his legal strategy.
And on Monday, new signs emerged that his legal team is looking to shake things up. Flynn had another status hearing on Monday before Judge Emmet Sullivan as he awaits sentencing for charges brought by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
In the hearing on Monday, Powell, who had been publicly critical of the Russia investigation before joining Flynn’s team, requested a security clearance to review documents in the case. This was a surprising move, because the government said that there was no classified information in the documents it had turned over to the defense.