The U.S. government has formally requested the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from the United Kingdom, a spokeswoman for the Department of Justice said Tuesday. Assange, 47 years old and of Australian origin, faces in a federal court in the state of Virginia several crimes of espionage and publication of highly classified documents, in connection with the massive leak that organized in 2010.
The formal extradition request was filed last week, shortly before the legal deadline. Specifically, the extradition treaty between London and Washington states that any extradition request must be formalized within 60 days.
On 11 April Assange was arrested by the British police after being dragged from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, after Quito rescinded the asylum it had granted him in 2012. Almost seven years ago, on 19 June 2012, the journalist took refuge in the Ecuadorian mission to avoid his extradition to Sweden, which two years earlier requested his surrender to interrogate him for alleged sexual crimes that he always denied and of which he was never accused. Assange feared that if he was handed over to Swedish justice, he would end up being extradited to the United States, where he faces charges for the 2010 release of secret documents on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other matters.
The U.S. extradition request is based on the indictment filed in May by federal prosecutors in the East Virginia District Court in Alexandria. The prosecution argues that Assange helped former soldier Chelsea Manning decipher the passwords of U.S. government computers to enter those systems and extract secret information without leaving a trace.