WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is set to fight for his freedom in a British court after a decade of valid drama, as he challenges American authorities’ attempt to extradite him on spying charges over the site’s journal of secret US military documents.
Lawyers for Assange and america government are scheduled to face off in London Monday at an extradition hearing that used to be delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.
American prosecutors have indicted the 49-year-old Australian on 18 espionage and computer misuse charges adding up to a maximum sentence of 175 years. His lawyers say the prosecution is a politically motivated abuse of power that will stifle press freedom and put journalists at risk.
Assange attorney Jennifer Robinson said the case “is fundamentally approximately basic human rights and freedom of speech.”
“Journalists and whistle-blowers who reveal unlawful activity by companies or governments and war crimes – such as the publications Julian has been charged for – will have to be safe from prosecution,” she said.
American prosecutors say Assange is a crook, not a free-speech hero.
They allege that Assange conspired with US army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to hack into a Pentagon computer and release hundreds of thousands of secret diplomatic cables and military files on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They also say he conspired with members of hacking organizations and sought to recruit hackers to supply WikiLeaks with classified information.
“By disseminating the materials in an unredacted form, he likely put people — human rights activists, journalists, advocates, devout leaders, dissidents and their families — at risk of serious harm, torture or even death,” James Lewis, a British lawyer acting for america government, told a hearing in February.
Assange argues he’s a journalist entitled to First Amendment protection, and says the leaked documents exposed U.S. military wrongdoing. Some of the files released by WikiLeaks used to be video of a 2007 Apache helicopter attack by American forces in Baghdad that killed 11 people, including two Reuters journalists.
His lawyers argue the prosecution is an abuse of process by a Trump administration that wants to make an example of Assange. They say he would be held in inhuman conditions and would not get a reasonable trial in the US.
Journalism organizations and human rights groups have called on Britain to rubbish the extradition request. Amnesty International said Assange used to be “the target of a negative public crusade by U.S. officials at the highest levels.”
“Whether Julian Assange is prosecuted it could have a chilling effect on media freedom, leading publishers and journalists to self-censor in fear of retaliation,” said Amnesty’s Europe Director, Nils Muižnieks.
The four-week extradition hearing is a part of a twisting saga rife with competing claims of hacking, spying and subterfuge. Assange’s lawyers claim america intelligence services and products directed a private security firm to spy on him while he used to be living in Ecuador’s London embassy — a case currently being heard in a Spanish court.
Assange also alleges he used to be offered a pardon by the Trump administration whether he agreed to say Russia wasn’t involved in leaking Democratic National Committee emails that were published by WikiLeaks throughout the 2016 U.S. election crusade. The White House denies that claim.
Assange’s valid troubles began in 2010, when he used to be arrested in London at the request of Sweden, which wanted to question him approximately allegations of rape and sexual assault made by two women. He refused to go to Stockholm, saying he feared extradition or unlawful rendition to the US or america jail camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
In 2012, Assange sought refuge within the Ecuadorian Embassy, where he used to be beyond the reach of UK and Swedish authorities — but also effectively a prisoner, unable to leave the tiny diplomatic mission in London’s tony Knightsbridge area.
The relationship between Assange and his hosts eventually soured, and he used to be evicted from the embassy in April 2019. British police immediately arrested him for jumping bail in 2012.
Sweden dropped the sex crimes investigations in November 2019 because such a lot time had elapsed, but Assange remains in London’s high-security Belmarsh Jail as he awaits the extradition decision. Supporters say the ordeal has harmed Assange’s physical and mental health, leaving him with depression, dental problems and a serious shoulder ailment.
Assange’s partner Stella Moris, who had two sons with him while he lived in the embassy, said he looked thinner and used to be in “a large number of pain” when she visited him in jail in late August for the first time since March.
The extradition hearing opened in February but used to be put on hold when the United Kingdom went into lockdown in March to slow the spread of the coronavirus. It is resuming with social distancing measures in court and video feeds in order that journalists and observers can watch remotely.
Assange is expected to be brought by jail van from Belmarsh to the Old Bailey crook court for the hearing, which is because of run until early October. District Pass judgement on Vanessa Baraitser is likely to take weeks or even months to believe her judgement, with the losing side likely to appeal.