02:30 GMT +316 June 2019
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    J. Assange in Prison Belmarsh in London

    UK Home Secretary Signs Request for Assange's Extradition to the US

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    The whistleblower and WikiLeaks founder is currently serving a 50-week sentence in a London jail for violating his bail conditions in 2012, when he took refuge inside the Ecuadorian Embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden on sexual assault charges which have been dropped and reopened repeatedly.

    UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid has confirmed that he has signed a request for Julian Assange to be extradited to the United States.

    Speaking on the Today Programme on Thursday morning, the minister said Assange was "rightly behind bars."

    "There's an extradition request from the US that is before the courts tomorrow but yesterday I signed the extradition order and certified it and that will be going in front of the courts tomorrow," Javid said.

    According to the minister, while it's "ultimately" up to the court to determine Assange's fate, "there is a very important part of it for the home secretary and I want to see justice done at all times and we've got a legitimate extradition request, so I've signed it..."

    In the US, Assange faces charges over the 2010 leak of classified government information and could face up to 175 years in prison. The 47-year-old Australian, who is feared to have a variety of physical and psychological problems after spending years confined in the Ecuadorian Embassy in fear for his safety, is expected to appear before a hearing on Friday regarding the US' extradition request.

    On Wednesday, Assange's father said his son has undergone "considerable change" since the two met last Christmas, including losing about 20 pounds, but remains "clearly optimistic" that he will not be extradited.

    Journalists and activists have warned that the US' charges against Assange are a potential blow to freedom of speech and investigative journalism.

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