WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange denied extradition hearing delay

Assange faces 18 charges in US, including violating espionage law and conspiring to hack government computers.

Free Julian Assange protest - reuters
Assange's supporters say he has been targeted for helping whistleblowers expose murders carried out by the US military [Hannah McKay/Reuters]

Julian Assange will face a full extradition hearing in February 2020 after a London judge threw out his request for a three-month delay.

The WikiLeaks founder, currently imprisoned in the United Kingdom, faces 18 charges in the United States – including conspiring to hack government computers and violating espionage law – after publishing several series of classified documents, including video footage of a group of Iraqi journalists being shot at by a US helicopter. He could spend decades in prison if convicted.

The 48-year-old is also being investigated in Sweden for a rape allegation.

His legal team says it needs more time to prepare its case against extradition to the US.

Assange raised a fist in a defiant gesture to acknowledge his supporters in the gallery at Westminster Magistrates’ Court for his case management hearing on Monday morning. He was clean-shaven and wearing a blue jumper and sports jacket.

He struggled to state his name and date of birth to the court, saying he could not “think properly” in prison.

‘Needs more time’

US authorities accuse Assange of scheming with former military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to break a password for a classified government computer. The case is expected to take months to resolve, with each side able to make several appeals of rulings.

Assange’s legal team had been seeking to delay his full extradition hearing which is now set for five days in February.

Lawyer Mark Summers, representing Assange, said more time was needed to prepare Assange’s defence against “unprecedented” use of espionage charges against a journalist. Summers said the case had many facets and will require a “mammoth” amount of planning and preparation.

He also accused the US of illegally spying on Assange during his seven-year stay inside the Ecuadorian Embassy seeking refuge.

“We need more time,” Summers said, asking for a three-month delay.

Representing the US, lawyer James Lewis said Washington would oppose any delay to the proceedings.

The public gallery was jammed with Assange supporters, including former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, and outside the court others carried placards calling for Assange to be released.

Assange is currently serving a 50-week sentence in Belmarsh Prison on the outskirts of London, having skipped bail during the initial investigations into the Swedish rape case. 

Assange says he is a journalist entitled to First Amendment protection.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies