UK Court Sets Assange’s US Extradition Hearing for February 2020

LONDON—The full extradition hearing to decide whether Wikileaks founder Julian Assange should be sent to the United States to face accusations including spying charges will take place in February next year, a London court ruled on Friday, June 14.

Assange, 47, is accused by U.S. authorities of 18 charges including conspiring to hack U.S. government computers and violating an espionage law.

He is currently in a London prison after being jailed for 50 weeks for skipping bail after fleeing to the Ecuadorean embassy seven years ago to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning in a sexual assault investigation.

Assange, dressed in a grey T-shirt and wearing black-framed glasses, appeared by videolink for the short hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

As Ben Brandon, the lawyer representing the United States, ran through a summary of the accusations against him including that he had cracked a U.S. defense network password, Assange said: “I didn’t break any password whatsoever”.

Formal Extradition Request

The U.S. Justice Department formally asked Britain to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States to face charges that he conspired to hack U.S. government computers and violated an espionage law, the U.K. has confirmed.

“Mr. Assange was arrested in relation to a provisional extradition request from the United States of America. He is accused of offenses including computer misuse and the unauthorized disclosure of national defense information,” a spokesperson for the Home Office, Britain’s internal security department said.

Julian Assange gestures to the media from a police vehicle on his arrival at Westminster Magistrates court in London, England, on April 11, 2019. (Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

U.S. and British security sources said U.S. prosecutors sent the formal extradition request to UK authorities last week, shortly before the expiration of a legal deadline.

On April 11, police forcibly removed the WikiLeaks founder from the Ecuadorean Embassy near Harrods department store in central London.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks on the balcony of the Embassy of Ecuador in London, Britain, on May 19, 2017. (Neil Hall/Reuters)

Sources familiar with the U.S. extradition request said that it is based on an indictment federal prosecutors in Alexandria, Virginia filed against Assange in May. That indictment added 17 criminal counts to an earlier indictment, filed under seal in March 2018.

The new charges include violation of a U.S. espionage statute. The previous indictment alleged that Assange conspired with former U.S. soldier Chelsea Manning to hack into a U.S. government computer system.

Manning was arrested and convicted by a military court-martial for leaking hundreds of thousands of U.S. government reports to WikiLeaks.

By Andrew MacAskill and Mark Hosenball

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Author: Reuters


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