British minister approves Assange extradition to U.S.

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

London (dpa) British Home Secretary Sajid Javid, on Thursday said he has approved the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the U.S.

He told the BBC that it will be up to the courts to decide the next step.

Javid told the broadcaster that Australian citizen Assange, 47, was “rightly behind bars.’’

“There’s an extradition request from the U.S. that is before the courts on Friday, but on Wednesday I signed the extradition order and certified it, and that will be going in front of the courts tomorrow,’’ he said.

Assange’s lawyers are expected to challenge Javid’s decision, paving the way for a lengthy appeal process through British courts.

The U.S. government has accused Assange of conspiring with former U.S. military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to leak a trove of classified material in 2010.

He has been held at London’s Belmarsh prison since police dragged him from the Ecuadorian embassy in London on April 11.

He had spent seven years inside the embassy to avoid arrest.

Assange was sentenced to 50 weeks in prison on May 1, after he was found guilty of breaching bail conditions related to an earlier extradition request from Sweden.

The extradition request had wanted him to answer allegations of rape and sexual assault.

After visiting him at the prison hospital on Tuesday, Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei reported that Assange’s health is “deteriorating.’’

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