U.S. submits extradition request for WikiLeaks founder Assange

J. Assange in Prison Belmarsh in London

J. Assange in Prison Belmarsh in London

Assange is set to face a hearing in London over the extradition on 14 June.

Under an extradition treaty with the United Kingdom, the US had 60 days from the date of Assange's April 11 arrest in London to file a formal request for his handover.

Yet it remains far from certain that Assange will stand trial in the United States.

Assange had eluded arrest for seven years by holing up in Ecuador's embassy in London until Ecuadorian officials turned against him in April.

After Assange's arrest by London police, USA prosecutors unsealed a year-old indictment charging Assange with a single count of computer intrusion in connection with the publication of the secret documents.

Soon after his arrest in London, the United States sought his extradition to face charges of computer hacking and being involved in a compromise of classified information, a charge that carries a maximum sentence of five years.

That indictment, which includes Espionage Act charges, was issued by the Justice Department last month and is pending in a federal court in Alexandria, Virginia.

Britain will now consider the US extradition request and any possible new request from Sweden.

Some legal experts have said the additional Espionage Act charges might slow or complicate the extradition process to the extent the United Kingdom views them as political offences and therefore exempt from extradition.

US authorities allege the whistleblower conspired with Manning, 31, "with reason to believe that the information was to be used to the injury of the United States or the advantage of a foreign nation".

Manning, 31, served seven years in military prison for convictions related to her WikiLeaks disclosures prior to having most of her sentence commuted by former President Barack Obama in early 2017.

"The American authorities, the Department of Justice, will present the evidence in support of their extradition demand", Kristinn Hrafnsson told reporters.

During a media briefing Tuesday in London, Mr. Hrafnsson said the case against Mr. Assange strikes at the heart of what journalists do: obtain information, or encourage others to provide information, and then publish the contents. Mr. Hrafnsson said Mr. Assange had been transferred to the prison hospital and it's unclear whether he will be able to attend Friday's hearing.

Assange took refuge at the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012 to avoid possible extradition to Sweden to face charges that he raped a Swedish woman. The law has been used rarely and never against a journalist.

"It can't be overstated how important this case is for press freedom", Mr. Hrafnsson said.

"It's an indication of the watershed moment that we are now seeing in the attack on journalism", he said. Ai Weiwei will be joined by Assange's father, Richard Assange.