U.K. Home Secretary Sajid Javid has signed an extradition order for Julian Assange, putting the WikiLeaks founder one step closer to facing prosecution in the United States.
The U.S. extradition request will still have to be approved by the British courts. Assange is due to appear in court Friday for a hearing on the matter, according to Javid.
“There is an extradition request from the U.S. that is before the courts tomorrow but yesterday I signed the extradition order and certified it,” Javid said, speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today program Thursday.
He added: “It is a decision ultimately for the courts, but 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, but the final decision is now with the courts.”
The U.S. Department of Justice has indicted the WikiLeaks founder on 18 charges – including allegations that he violated the Espionage Act, a move that alarmed free speech activists.
Assange is currently serving a 50-week sentence in the U.K. for breaching his bail conditions after Ecuador evicted him from its London Embassy, where he had sought political asylum in 2012 in an attempt to avoid extradition to Sweden on charges of sexual assault. (Assange denies the accusations.)
Sweden has reopened the rape case against Assange, which dates back to 2010. An Uppsala court last week rejected a request to detain him, however, preventing Swedish prosecutors from applying for an extradition warrant right away.