Assange, born in Australia, was charged under the US Espionage Act of 1917 for “unlawfully obtaining and disclosing classified documents relating to national defense”.
The case marks the first time in US history that publishing information has been charged under espionage law.
Assange, 49, has been charged with 17 charges of espionage and one charge of hacking relating to the publication of secret military documents.
The hacking charge was included recently – meaning the defense had no witnesses to properly address the hacking allegations.
At the end of this stage of the hearing, Nils Melzer, the UN special rapporteur on torture, told Al Jazeera he was “very worried” because Assange was at risk of torture and should be extradited to the United States – a key defense argument.
“The judge ruled out witnesses who could testify about systematic torture in the United States,” he said.
According to Melzer, the new hacking charge has broadened the factual basis of the case and “opens the door to the introduction of new charges” by the United States.
In an interview with Democracy Now, one of Assange’s lawyers, Jennifer Robinson, said the United States was “moving the goal post” because she described the case as part of “the attack. against journalism ”by US President Donald Trump.
The Justice Department, she claimed, attempted to present this as a hacking case when there was no evidence of hacking.
Assange is accused of conspiring with Chelsea Manning, a former military intelligence analyst, to hack a Pentagon computer network and publish the secret documents.
He has been held in British high security Belmarsh prison since April 2019. He first appeared in court in February, but the case was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. If found guilty on all counts, he faces 175 years in prison in the United States.
Lawyers for Assange say the case is politically motivated, saying in court documents that he could not get a fair trial in the United States.
They argued that the case was motivated by Trump, who is known to be hostile to the media.
“It’s a clear press freedom matter,” Robinson said. “The First Amendment is supposed to protect the media by receiving and publishing this information in the public interest, which WikiLeaks has done.”
Over the past four weeks, the court has heard from several witnesses.
The first witness called in the case, Mark Feldstein, a professor at the University of Maryland and a former investigative reporter, said the transmission of classified information to news agencies in the United States is common.
Another scholar, Paul Rogers, a professor at the University of Bradford told the court that the WikiLeaks revelations were “significant” in showing how the US coalition wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were “going wrong” despite public statements. of their success.
Anonymous witnesses, who worked for a Spanish security firm with a contract to protect the Ecuadorian embassy, said Assange was wiretapped inside the embassy from 2017.
Many prominent world leaders and celebrities have come to Assange’s defense.
Defense attorneys for Assange have continually expressed concerns about his physical and mental health; he threatened to kill himself if he was extradited.
If he were extradited to the United States, he would likely face solitary confinement, which would put him at increased risk of suicide, according to his team.
The Jan. 4 decision won’t necessarily end the case, as the losing party is likely to appeal the decision.
“Unless a new application for bail is made, and by January 4, you will remain in detention for the same reasons given to you before,” Baraitser told Assange, who was sitting behind a security screen in the courthouse.