UK signs Julian Assange's US extradition papers

It’s the first step in what could be a lengthy legal battle against the WikiLeaks founder

British Home Secretary Sajid Javid has officially signed an extradition order to send Julian Assange to the United States. It’s the first step in what could prove to be a lengthy legal battle over whether the WikiLeaks founder should face prosecution in the United States for his actions surrounding the publication of classified materials from former US Army analyst Chelsea Manning in 2010.

In May, the US Department of Justice indicted Assange on 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act. According to the indictment, they accused Assange of having “repeatedly sought, obtained, and disseminated information that the United States classified due to serious risk that unauthorized disclosure could harm the national security of the United States.” The WikiLeaks chief faces up to 10 years in prison for each count of violating the Espionage Act.

He also faces a single charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion in the US for allegedly working with Manning to hack into a Defense Department computer to access classified Iraq War documents.

Yet there’s no guarantee he’ll ever see the inside of a US federal courtroom. The extradition order is merely the first step in the process, and Assange’s lawyers will almost certainly challenge it.

“It’s a decision ultimately for the courts,” Javid told the BBC. “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.”

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