Efforts to put wanted WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange on trial in the U.S. are likely to linger following an initial extradition hearing held Thursday in London.
Speaking by video link from a nearby prison, Mr. Assange told Judge Michael Snow of the Westminster Magistrates Court that he will decline to voluntarily give himself up to U.S. authorities.
“I do not wish to surrender myself for extradition for doing journalism that’s won many, many awards and affected many people,” said Mr. Assange, attendees reported.
Proceedings were adjourned until May 30, and another hearing involving his extradition was scheduled for June 12.
“The full extradition hearing is many months away where the substance of your case is likely to be argued,” said the judge, CNN reported.
Mr. Assange, an Australian, was arrested in London last month in connection with being charged in the U.S. with one count of conspiracy to commit computer hacking and has been jailed ever since. He allegedly attempted in 2010 to help Chelsea Manning, a former WikiLeaks source, bypass security measures that could have allowed her to access sensitive data stored on U.S. Department of Defense computer systems, according to prosecutors.
Ben Brandon, an attorney representing the U.S. Department of Justice, said during the hearing that Mr. Assange “unlawfully conspired to effect these disclosures” and that he “agreed to help Manning crack a password that was connected to [a] government server,” CNN reported.
Jennifer Robinson, an Australian lawyer representing Mr. Assange, said the charge would cause a “massive chill on investigative journalism.”
“Journalists do this all the time, that’s why this indictment and the extradition request is such a concern for free speech groups here and in the U.S, and it’s why Julian is committed to defending himself and resisting extradition in this case,” said Ms. Robinson, the Australian Associated Press reported.
Mr. Assange, 47, faces a maximum sentence of five years behind bars if convicted of the conspiracy charge. The Justice Department has 60 days from filing its extradition request to make its case.
Manning, a 31-year former Army analyst, was convicted in 2013 of crimes related to her role with WikiLeaks and ultimately served seven years in military prison. She was found in contempt in March for refusing to cooperate with the Justice Department’s WikiLeaks probe and has been jailed ever since.
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