Trial begins in London on US extradition request for Assange

Julian Assange: Wikileaks founder extradition to US blocked by UK judge – BBC News

Trial begins in London on US extradition request for Assange

Trial begins in London on US extradition request for Assange

In the US, the founder of WikiLeaks indicted in connection with the publication of classified documents

US government officials and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will meet in a London court on Monday, ten years after the portal outraged US officials by publishing a package of classified military documents..

A judge at the Royal Court in Woolwich will begin hearing arguments from US federal lawyers who want to bring Assange to trial on espionage charges.

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The extradition hearings were preceded by years of diplomatic controversy and a legal drama that turned the 48-year-old Australian citizen from a world-famous whistleblower hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to a prisoner in a British high-security prison.

Assange faces 18-count charges in the United States for publishing classified documents. According to the prosecution, he colluded with US military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to hack into Pentagon computer systems and publish thousands of secret diplomatic cables and military files about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan..

The American authorities say that the activities of WikiLeaks have endangered the lives of Americans. Assange claims that he acted as a journalist protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution and that the leaked documents exposed violations by the US military. Among the files released by WikiLeaks was a video of a helicopter attack by the US military in Baghdad in 2007, which killed 11 people, including two Reuters journalists..

Journalistic and human rights groups including Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders believe the charges against Assange set a dangerous precedent for press freedom.

In 2010, Assange was arrested in London at the request of Sweden, whose authorities intended to question him on sex crimes charges. He refused to travel to Stockholm due to fears of extradition or illegal extradition to the United States, or being taken to an American prison at Guantanamo Bay..

In 2012, Assange took refuge at the Ecuadorian embassy, ​​where he was out of reach of the British and Swedish authorities..

Assange spent seven years at the embassy, ​​sometimes appearing on a small balcony to address his supporters. It has been visited by such celebrities as Lady Gaga and actress Pamela Anderson.

However, relations between Assange and Ecuador eventually soured, and he was expelled from the embassy in April 2019, after which he was immediately arrested by the British police for escaping after being released on bail in 2012..

Sweden dropped its sexual offense investigations in November due to a statute of limitations, but Assange remains in London jail awaiting a decision on the US extradition request.

Assange’s lawyers insist that the case brought against him by the American authorities is politically motivated. They say they will provide evidence that the Trump administration offered Assange a pardon if he agrees to say that Russia was not involved in the leaked correspondence of the Democratic National Committee, which was published by WikiLeaks during the 2016 US election campaign..

Assange’s lawyers say the offer was made in August 2017 by then Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, who claimed to have acted on behalf of President Donald Trump.

The White House called these claims “complete fabrication and lies.” Rohrabacher admits to having discussed with Assange the leaked Democrats’ correspondence, but denies offering him a pardon on behalf of the president..

After hearing the opening arguments of the parties, the court will adjourn until May, when the parties present their evidence. The judge is expected to make a decision no sooner than a few more months later, and the losing party can appeal.

If the courts approve the extradition, the British government will have the final say.

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