WikiLeaks' Assange Signals He'll Fight Extradition to USFight Over Extradition Could Continue for Months
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange returned to court on Thursday and told a British judge that he would not voluntarily accept extradition to the U.S. to face a charge of helping to hack into a Pentagon computer, setting up a legal fight that could take months.
During a brief appearance via video link on Thursday, Assange, 47, told Judge Michael Snow that he would not "surrender myself for extradition for doing journalism that has won many awards and protected many people," the Associated Press reports.
On Wednesday, another British judge sentenced Assange to 50 weeks in prison for violating the terms of his bail in 2012, when Swedish authorities were investigating charges of sexual assault against the WikiLeaks founder (see: Assange Sentenced for Bail Jumping; US Extradition Looms ).
At the time, he entered the Ecuadorian embassy in London, which granted him political asylum for the past seven years.
In April, Ecuador withdrew its asylum protection and British police arrested Assange and brought him to court to face charges of breaking the conditions of his bail. At the same time, the U.S. Justice Department unsealed an indictment that charged Assange with helping former Army Private Chelsea Manning hack into the Pentagon's network in order to take classified material related to the Iraq war as well as other operations, which WikiLeaks then published (see: WikiLeaks' Assange: A Nexus of Media, Hacking and Activism).
Assange, who has denied any wrongdoing, contends that the Swedish investigation was only a pretense to render the Australian native to the United States for prosecution. WikiLeaks and its supporters believe that Assange will not receive a fair trial in the U.S.
Today the US extradition case against our publisher Julian Assange formally begins in British courts, but this extradition case actually started in 2010. https://t.co/vvbZBOgCwL— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) May 2, 2019
Outside the courthouse on Thursday, Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks' editor-in-chief, called the case "a question of life or death for Mr. Assange," according to published reports.
The next schedule hearing for Assange is set for May 30, the New York Times reports. But legal experts say the extradition process could take many months, the Times reports.
When deciding the case, the judge is guided by what is called Part 2 of the Extradition Act of 2003. Under this U.K. law, which guides all extradition requests outside of the European Union, a judge must determine if the crime alleged in the complaint is illegal in both countries before granting approval for the extradition to take place. The judge can also consider if the case violates the defendant's human rights, according to a legal analysis by CNN.
The U.S. Justice Department indicted Assange on one charge of "conspiracy to commit computer intrusion" for agreeing to break a password to a classified U.S. government computer. If convicted, he could face up to five years in federal prison.
In court Thursday, Ben Brandon, a lawyer representing the U.S. government, told the judge investigators had obtained details of chatroom communications between Manning and Assange in 2010, according to AP.
The classified material that Manning took included 90,000 activity reports from the war in Afghanistan, 400,000 Iraq war-related reports, 800 Guantanamo Bay detainee assessments and 250,000 State Department cables, AP reports.
Assange will have to serve at least half of his prison sentence for the bail violation related to the Swedish case unless he is "subject to the conditions and outcome of any other proceedings," according to the court documents from that case.