WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange fails in bid to delay extradition battle with US

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange came up short Monday in a bid to delay his extradition to the United States to face espionage charges.

Assange, who appeared with his legal team at the Westminster Magistrates Court in London, failed to convince District Judge Vanessa Baraitser that a delay in the already slow-moving case was justified, The Associated Press reported.

Assange, who hasn’t been seen in public for several months since his dramatic arrest inside Britain’s Ecuadorian embassy, appeared with his silvery-gray hair slicked back and wore a blue sweater and blue sport coat for the hearing. At one point, he defiantly raised a fist to acknowledge supporters who jammed the public gallery in the courtroom.

The U.S. is seeking to bring Assange overseas to face espionage charges. The full hearing to decide his extradition is still set for a five-day period in late February, with brief interim hearings in November and December.

A court artist sketch showing Julian Assange facing District Judge Vanessa Baraitser at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London, on Monday.

A court artist sketch showing Julian Assange facing District Judge Vanessa Baraitser at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London, on Monday.
(AP/Elizabeth Cook)


After the judge turned down the bid for a three-month delay, Assange said he didn’t understand the events in court.

He said the case is not “equitable” because the U.S. government has “unlimited resources” while he doesn’t have easy access to his lawyers or to documents needed to prepare for his battle against extradition due to his confinement in Belmarsh Prison, on the outskirts of London.

“They have all the advantages,” the 48-year-old Assange said.

U.S. authorities accuse Assange of scheming with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to crack a password that provided access to classified material on a government computer.

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Assange’s lawyer, Mark Summers, told the judge more time was needed to prepare his client’s defense because the case has many facets — including the very rare use of espionage charges against a journalist, as Assange defines himself — and requires a “mammoth” amount of planning and preparation.

“Our case will be that this is a political attempt to signal to journalists the consequences of publishing information,” he said. “It is legally unprecedented.”

Supporters of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange demonstrate outside Westminster Magistrates' Court in London. (AP)

Supporters of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange demonstrate outside Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London. (AP)


Summers also accused the U.S. of illegal actions during its investigation, including illegally spying on Assange while he was inside the Ecuadorian Embassy seeking refuge.

“The American state has been actively engaged in intruding into privileged discussions between Mr. Assange and his lawyers in the embassy, also unlawful copying of their telephones and computers [and] hooded men breaking into offices,” he said.

Summers did not provide evidence of these claims, which likely would be part of Assange’s defense against extradition when the full hearing is held next year.

Summers said the initial case against Assange was prepared during the administration of former President Barack Obama in 2010 but wasn’t acted on until Donald Trump assumed the presidency. He said it represents the administration’s aggressive attitude toward whistleblowers.

Attorney James Lewis, representing the U.S., opposed any delay to the proceeding.

The public gallery was jammed with Assange supporters, including former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, and outside the courthouse, some chanted demanding Assange be freed while others carried placards calling for his release.

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The judge said the full hearing will be heard at Belmarsh Court, which is adjacent to the prison where Assange is being held. She said this would be easier for Assange to attend and contains more room for the media.

Former Home Secretary Sajid Javid had signed an order in June allowing Assange to be extradited.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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