Assange begins fight against US extradition

Julian Assange has told a court he will not “surrender” himself to extradition to the United States for “doing journalism that has won many awards”.

The WikiLeaks founder faces allegations in America of conspiring to break into a classified Pentagon computer.

The 47-year-old has appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court by videolink for his first extradition hearing since he was hauled out of the Ecuadorian embassy.

Assange had been living in the London premises for nearly seven years before he was removed on 11 April.

He told a packed courtroom on Thursday: “I do not wish to surrender myself for extradition for doing journalism that has won many awards and protected many people.”

Assange was speaking from Belmarsh Prison after he was handed a 50-week sentence on Wednesday for breaching bail when he failed to surrender to police in 2012.

The Australian formally refused to consent to being extradited during a hearing which lasted a little over 10 minutes.

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Judge Michael Snow said the extradition case will take “many months” as he set a new procedural hearing for 30 May.

He said a more substantive hearing will take place on 12 June.

Assange is not expected to appear in court in person, and will instead appear via a videolink from prison.

Assange supporters gathered outside Westminster Magistrates' Court
Image: Assange supporters gathered outside Westminster Magistrates’ Court

A few dozen supporters holding signs reading “Free Assange” and “no extradition” gathered outside court before the hearing.

Some who entered the courtroom for the hearing had to stand or sit on the floor.

Shortly after Assange was removed from the Ecuadorian embassy last month, US prosecutors announced he had been charged with conspiring alongside intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to infiltrate a Pentagon computer.

They said the charge carries a maximum of five years’ imprisonment and relates to Assange’s “alleged role in one of the largest compromises of classified information” in US history.

Prosecutors claim he assisted Manning in cracking a password to help her leak classified records to the whistleblowing website.

Classified documents allegedly downloaded included about 90,000 Afghan war-related significant activity reports, 400,000 Iraq war-related significant activity reports, 800 Guantanamo Bay detainee assessments and 250,000 US State Department cables, the court heard.

Assange was convicted of breaching bail conditions after he entered the Ecuadorian embassy while wanted over allegations of sexual offences in Sweden, which he denies.

He was arrested last month after his relationship with his embassy hosts went sour and Ecuador revoked his political asylum.

Source: SKY NEWS

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