A British judge on Friday scheduled a full extradition hearing to begin in February next year for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is wanted in the United States on espionage charges.
Assange is accused of violating the Espionage Act by releasing a vast trove of classified military and diplomatic files in 2010 about US bombing campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The 47-year-old is currently in Belmarsh Prison on the outskirts of London serving a 50-week sentence for jumping bail in Britain.
He was too ill to appear at a recent hearing but is expected Friday to appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court via video link.
US officials have made clear their intention to prosecute Assange under the Espionage Act, blaming him for directing WikiLeaks publication of a huge trove of secret documents that disclosed the names of people who provided confidential information to American and coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Assange asserts that he is a journalist with First Amendment protections.
"I am very pleased the police were finally able to apprehend him and now he's rightfully behind bars because he broke UK law," British Home Secretary Sajid Javid told BBC radio on Thursday.
"Yesterday I signed the extradition order and certified it and that will be going in front of the courts tomorrow. It is ultimately a decision for the courts," he said.
Javid's certification simply means the extradition request is a valid one but it will be for a judge to decide whether Assange can be sent to the United States, taking into account issues such as whether it would breach his human rights.
When Assange fled to the Ecuadorean embassy, he said he feared he would be ultimately extradited to the United States where he had caused anger by publishing hundreds of thousands of secret US diplomatic cables.
He was dragged from the embassy by British police on April 11 and within hours of his arrest, US prosecutors said they had charged him with conspiracy in trying to access a classified US government computer.
They added a further 17 criminal charges to that indictment when they submitted a formal extradition request.
Swedish prosecutors have also said they want to extradite Assange as part of a rape investigation that was dropped in 2017 although no formal request has yet been submitted.
Copyright © 2019 TRT World