DOJ Begins Extradition Process for Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange

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The Department of Justice has made its formal request to the U.K. to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

The U.S. made this official extradition request to the U.K. last Thursday, June 6, according to “a U.S. official who spoke on background to discuss a sensitive matter” as reported by the Washington Post.

The extradition treaty between the U.K. and the U.S., signed in 2003 and made effective in 2007, required that “the formal request for extradition and the documents supporting the extradition request” had to be received within 60 days of Assange’s arrest back on April 11.

The next extradition hearing had been scheduled for June 12, although WikiLeaks says it has been moved to June 14.

Assange, 47, had initially been arrested at Ecuador’s Embassy in London early this year in connection to a single charge in the U.S. of conspiring to hack into a Pentagon computer network in 2010. This initial indictment revealed that prosecutors charged him with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion by agreeing to help Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning crack a password that would have given Manning access to a classified military network.

Federal prosecutors later accused the WikiLeaks founder of violating the Espionage Act as part of a new superseding indictment in late May, charging him on 17 new counts in addition to the single count unsealed in early April.

The Justice Department said those charges “relate to Assange’s alleged role in one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States.”

The U.S. government alleges that Assange “actively solicited United States classified information, including by publishing a list of ‘Most Wanted Leaks’ that sought, among other things, classified documents” starting in late 2009.

The extradition treaty between the two nations would make it very difficult for Assange to be charged with further crimes once he is brought from the U.K. to the U.S., because the agreement says that persons extradited under the treaty can only be tried for crimes “for which extradition was granted” or crimes that are carried out “after the extradition of the person.” The idea that someone cannot be prosecuted for crimes not mentioned in their extradition proceedings is known in international law as the Doctrine of Speciality, although a provision in the treaty does say that the U.K. could potentially waive that provision if the U.S. asks.

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