Julian Assange appears at dock as extradition hearing resumes

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Julia Quenzler for BBC News

Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange appeared in the dock at Old Bailey in London as his fight against extradition to the United States resumed.

The 49-year-old, who has been in Belmarsh prison for 16 months, is wanted for the publication of classified documents in 2010 and 2011.

He told the judge early Monday’s hearing that he did not consent to extradition – while new charges had surfaced.

If found guilty in the United States, he faces a possible sentence of 175 years in prison.

At Monday’s hearing, the court heard that Mr Assange, an Australian national, had been re-arrested minutes earlier on a new indictment issued in June, during the lockdown, by the US government.

It contained 18 counts, including conspiracy to hack into computers and conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defense information.

Edward Fitzgerald QC, representing Mr. Assange, said he had not seen his client in person for six months in part because of the pandemic – and he told the court that the latest indictment was done “at the 11th hour” without warning.

But an attempt to rule out the new charges failed, as District Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled they should be heard as part of the extradition request.

A separate request for an adjournment to allow Mr Assange’s lawyers to respond to the new charges was also denied.

Meanwhile, crowds of supporters gathered outside the Old Bailey, including Mr Assange’s father, John Shipton, and fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood.

“I am an activist, I am very scared, I lost days and years of sleep worrying about Julian Assange,” Dame Vivienne told reporters.

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Reuters

Legend

Dame Vivienne Westwood said she was ‘scared’ for Mr. Assange


“Julian Assange is the trigger, he sheds light on all the corruption in the world. ”

Mr Shipton said his son was being treated like a hardened criminal. He said, “Julian is in a glass box, he’s having trouble hearing anything. I can’t hear anything, I’m upstairs in the gallery. ”

A mobile display van drove by with a slogan “Don’t extradite Assange.” Journalism is not a crime ”and a photo of his face.

The hearing will last four weeks and is expected to hear witnesses, including academics, who will testify on journalistic practices.

Mr Assange was jailed for 50 weeks in May 2019 for violating his bail conditions after going into hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

He sought refuge at the embassy for seven years from 2012 until his arrest in April 2019.

A previous hearing at Woolwich Crown Court was adjourned shortly before the coronavirus pandemic resulted in the UK being locked down.

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