London: The UK has signed an order that lets an American bid to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange come before the British courts, Home Secretary Sajid Javid said Thursday.
Speaking on BBC radio, Javid said a court hearing on the U.S. extradition request will take place on Friday. "Yesterday I signed the extradition order, certified it, and that will be going in front of the courts," he said.
The document that Javid has signed is simply to confirm that the US has made a valid request, and "it doesn't prejudge what's going to happen" to Assange, which will be for the courts to decide, said Thomas Garner, an extradition lawyer in London who isn't involved with the case. "It's a formality," because without Javid's certification the case "can't go before the court," he said.
Assange was arrested when he was removed from Ecuadorian embassy in London in April, after taking refuge there in 2012. Javid said in the radio interview that he was "very pleased that the police were finally able to apprehend him." Assange is serving a 50-week sentence in the U.K.'s Belmarsh jail for skipping bail.
The U.S. has charged Assange with 18 counts related to endangering national security by conspiring to obtain and disclose classified information. He's accused of working with former U.S. Army intelligence officer Chelsea Manning to get classified documents from databases containing about 90,000 Afghanistan war-related activity reports, 400,000 Iraq war-related reports and 250,000 State Department cables.
Assange failed to appear at a London court hearing in May for the latest stage in his extradition battle, where his lawyer Gareth Peirce said he was unwell.
Swedish prosecutors have separately reopened an investigation into rape allegations against Assange, which he denies. Javid's decision to sign the U.S. request wouldn't prevent Sweden from making a separate request to extradite him there, Garner said.