Legal Team Brand Extradition as an ‘Outrageous Assault on Journalism’
(PM) — Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is to face a full extradition hearing in London in February 2020 which is expected to last five days.
Following the signing of the extradition request from the U.S. by the U.K. Home Secretary Sajid Javid yesterday, the case against Julian Assange went to court this morning in London.
Mr. Assange appeared via video link at Westminster Magistrates Court from Belmarsh high-security prison in London where he is serving a 50-week sentence for breaching bail conditions imposed in 2010 relating to rape allegations in Sweden, offenses which he has denied.
He later took refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy, London for seven years until he was forcibly removed in April this year.
Court Hears the Case Against Assange
Presiding Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot heard the case in which the U.S. cited 18 offenses under the Espionage Act including conspiring to hack into a Pentagon computer in collaboration with former U.S. Army Intelligence Officer Chelsea Manning.
Ben Brandon, representing the U.S., opened the case by saying “This is related to one of the largest compromises of confidential information in the history of the United States”.
Mr. Brandon went on to describe how Assange had “firstly encouraged” Manning to illegally obtain confidential documents and then to assist in cracking a password hash on the Pentagon computer.
Assange protested, stating “I didn’t break any password whatsoever”.
He later added “Wikileaks is nothing but a publisher.”
Mark Summers QC (Queens Counsel) representing Mr. Assange’s legal team described the case as “an outrageous and full-frontal assault on journalistic rights”.
Chief Magistrate Arbuthnot ruled that the full extradition hearing would commence on 25 February 2020.
A small group of protestors gathered outside the court during the hearing displaying banners which read ‘Free Assange’.
Mr. Assange’s legal team also stated they would be appealing his conviction for breaching his bail.
Meanwhile, a petition to free Assange reached 148,000 signatures.