WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange appeared in a London courtroom on Monday to combat a U.S. extradition request, at a high-stakes listening to that was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Assange, who has spent nearly a yr and a half in a British jail, sat within the dock on the Outdated Bailey felony courtroom and formally refused the U.S. demand he be extradited to face trial on espionage prices. He wore a darkish swimsuit, white shirt and maroon tie, with glasses perched atop his neatly trimmed white hair.
A number of dozen supporters, together with dressmaker Vivienne Westwood and Assange’s companion, Stella Morris, gathered outdoors the courthouse, chanting, banging drums and calling his prosecution a menace to press freedom.
“Julian Assange is the set off; he’s shining the sunshine on all of the corruption on the earth,” Westwood mentioned.
Forward of the listening to, supporters tried to ship a petition to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, calling on the federal government to show down Washington’s request for extradition.
Morris arrived on the gates of the 10 Downing Road however wasn’t allowed to enter. Morris, accompanied by a consultant from the Reporters With out Borders group, mentioned she would publish the doc as an alternative.
“I am combating for his life. He will not survive if he is extradited,” she mentioned.
American prosecutors have indicted the 49-year-old Australian on 18 espionage and pc misuse prices over Wikileaks’ publication of secret U.S. army paperwork a decade in the past. The costs carry a most sentence of 175 years in jail.
American authorities allege that Assange conspired with U.S. military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to hack right into a Pentagon pc and launch a whole bunch of 1000’s of secret diplomatic cables and army information on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In a brand new indictment filed in June, U.S. prosecutors additionally say he conspired with members of hacking organizations and sought to recruit hackers to offer WikiLeaks with categorised info. That indictment expanded the U.S. case in opposition to Assange however didn’t add any new prices.
Assange’s legal professionals say the prosecution is a politically motivated abuse of energy that can stifle press freedom and put journalists around the globe in danger.
They argue that Assange is a journalist entitled to First Modification safety, and say the leaked paperwork uncovered U.S. army wrongdoing.
Among the many information launched by WikiLeaks was video of a 2007 Apache helicopter assault by American forces in Baghdad that killed 11 individuals, together with two Reuters journalists.
“Journalists and whistle-blowers who reveal criminal activity by corporations or governments and warfare crimes — such because the publications Julian has been charged for — needs to be shielded from prosecution,” Assange lawyer Jennifer Robinson mentioned earlier than the listening to.
Assange’s authorized troubles started in 2010, when he was arrested in London on the request of Sweden, which needed to query him about allegations of rape and sexual assault made by two girls.
He refused to go to Stockholm, saying he feared extradition or unlawful rendition to america or the U.S. jail camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
In 2012, Assange sought refuge contained in the Ecuadorian Embassy, the place he was past the attain of U.Okay. and Swedish authorities — but in addition successfully a prisoner, unable to go away the tiny diplomatic mission in London’s tony Knightsbridge space.
The connection between Assange and his hosts finally soured, and he was evicted from the embassy in April 2019. British police instantly arrested him for leaping bail in 2012.
Assange stays in high-security jail
Sweden dropped the intercourse crimes investigations in November 2019 as a result of a lot time had elapsed, however Assange stays in London’s high-security Belmarsh Jail as he awaits the extradition choice.
Supporters say the ordeal has harmed Assange’s bodily and psychological well being, leaving him with melancholy, dental issues and a severe shoulder ailment. The listening to is predicted to incorporate professional psychiatric proof about his psychological state.
Journalism organizations and human rights teams have known as on Britain to refuse the extradition request. Amnesty Worldwide mentioned Assange was “the goal of a destructive public marketing campaign by U.S. officers on the highest ranges.”
The extradition listening to opened in February however was placed on maintain when the U.Okay. went into lockdown in March to sluggish the unfold of the coronavirus. It’s resuming with bodily distancing measures in courtroom and video feeds in order that journalists and observers can watch remotely.
The case is because of run till early October. District Decide Vanessa Baraitser is predicted to take weeks and even months to think about her verdict, with the shedding facet more likely to attraction.