Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 June 2019

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange due in court after formal US extradition bid

The 47-year-old is accused of 18 counts including publishing classified information

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange leaving court in a prison van in May. EPA
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange leaving court in a prison van in May. EPA

Julian Assange is due in a British court on Friday for the first time since the US issued its formal request for the extradition of the WikiLeaks founder accusing him of publishing leaked defence secrets.

Mr Assange, 47, is expected to appear in a London courtroom via videolink from Belmarsh top security prison, where he was visited in the health wing by his father and the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei earlier this week.

Mr Assange faces an 18-count indictment that accuses him of soliciting and publishing classified information and of conspiring with former Army private Chelsea Manning of cracking a Defence department computer password.

Britain’s home secretary Sajid Javid confirmed that he had signed off on the extradition order to go before the court, which will decide if he should be returned to the US.

Mr Assange has said he will fight the request ahead of a hearing which is set to take place later this year and could take several years to conclude.

“I am very pleased the police were finally able to apprehend him and now he's rightfully behind bars because he broke UK law,” Mr Javid told BBC radio.

“Yesterday I signed the extradition order and certified it and that will be going in front of the courts tomorrow. It is ultimately a decision for the courts.”

Mr Assange was first charged in the US last month with receiving and publishing thousands of classified documents linked to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is currently serving a 50-week prison term for skipping bail and holing up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012 while under investigation in Sweden over an alleged sex crime.

He was hauled out of the embassy by a British police team in April who were allowed inside after relations cooled between Mr Assange and his Ecuadorian hosts.

His father, John Shipton, told reporters that his son had lost weight but not his ‘spark’ and fight during a meeting at the prison this week. He had been moved to the health ward for an unspecified health condition and weight loss but was expected to return to the general prison population, he said.

“The big problem there is that Julian has no access to the means to prepare his case. And his case, I think, has another two months before its full hearing.

“He needs more access to the means to prepare his defence against this terrible extradition order.”

Chelsea Manning spent seven years in a military prison for her role in the leak before having her sentence commuted by then-president Barack Obama.

Updated: June 13, 2019 02:56 PM

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