US Justice Dept Formally Asks UK to Extradite Julian Assange

Extradition request said based on May indictment

Making their request official, the US Justice Department has formally submitted its request to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from the British government. There had previously been a “provisional” request for extradition, under which the US asked Britain to keep Assange pending this new request.

According to those familiar with the request, the request is built around an indictment from late May, in which the US imposed 17 charges under the Espionage Act. If convicted, Assange would face 170 years in prison.

Britain has been holding Assange since April 11, when police captured him in the Ecuadorean Embassy in central London. Assange had been in the embassy since 2012, and faces 50 weeks in prison in Britain for hiding in the embassy.

The US has been known to want to extradite Assange for years, and it is expected to be an extremely controversial bid, in part because Assange’s “crimes” are centered on journalistic activities.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle to the extradition request, however, is the number of US officials who have, for years, been calling for Assange to be executed for publishing embarrassing secrets. The fact that the US has a death penalty at all, combined with the number of officials publicly attacking him for years, raises substantial doubts he would be able to get a fair trial in the US.

WikiLeaks has yet to issue new comments on the extradition request, nor has Assange’s legal team. Assange is in Belmarsh prison, and was too ill to appear at his most recent court hearing.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of