WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange begins legal fight against US extradition

London, PTI | Updated : 02 May 2019, 08:46 PM
WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange (File Photo)
WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange (File Photo)

WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange on Thursday began his legal fight against being extradited to the US from the UK to face charges of allegedly leaking American government secrets.

The 47-year-old, who appeared by video link at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London a day after he was sentenced to 50 weeks in jail for breaching bail conditions, told Judge Michael Snow he did not consent to being extradited to the US.

"I do not wish to surrender myself for extradition for doing journalism that has won many awards and protected many people," he said.

The hearing marked the start of a long-drawn extradition process, with the next case management listing scheduled for May 30.

The UK court will decide whether to extradite Assange to the US in response to allegations that he conspired with former US intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to download classified databases.

"The charges relates to one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the US," said Ben Brandon, representing the US authorities.

Australian-born Assange faces up to five years in a US prison if convicted.

"Today the US extradition case against our publisher Julian Assange formally begins in British courts, but this extradition case actually started in 2010," WikiLeaks said in a Twitter statement.

In a separate legal case, Assange was found guilty of breaching the UK's Bail Act by Westminster Magistrates' Court in London last month after his arrest at the Ecuadorian Embassy, where he had sought refuge in 2012 following his bail over sexual assault allegations related to Sweden.

At a sentencing hearing at Southwark Crown Court on Wednesday, Judge Deborah Taylor told Assange it was difficult to envisage a more serious example of breach of bail conditions.

"By hiding in the embassy you deliberately put yourself out of reach, while remaining in the UK," she said.

In a letter read to the court, Assange apologised ?unreservedly? to people who feel he had disrespected them by the way he pursued his case.

"I found myself struggling with terrifying circumstances for which neither I nor those from whom I sought advice could work out any remedy," he said.

Assange's legal troubles date back to February 2011, when London's Westminster Magistrates Court ordered his extradition to Sweden to face allegations of sexual offending, including an allegation of rape. He was granted bail on conditions throughout the appeals process, which culminated in June 2012, when he entered the Ecuadorean Embassy seeking asylum.

A warrant for his arrest was issued by the same court after he failed to surrender in time before the court.

It was finally executed by Scotland Yard officers last month after Ecuador withdrew asylum and after an initial arrest on breach of bail conditions, Assange was further arrested on behalf of the United States authorities on an extradition warrant.

The US authorities are seeking his extradition because the Department of Justice has charged him with conspiring to break into a Pentagon computer system to reveal a large cache of top-secret files.

Assange's supporters have gathered outside the courts in London at every hearing, waving "Free Assange" and "No extradition" placards.

First Published: Thursday, May 02, 2019 08:45 PM
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