At a hearing in London court, Julian Assange has largely refused Judge Michael Snow’s given offer of the former’s extradition to the US to face charges, as his supporters gathered outside and inside the courtroom, holding signs, demanding his freedom.
In his decision to fight against the extradition, Assange shared a video link from prison saying, “I do not wish to surrender myself for extradition for doing journalism that has won many, many awards and protected many, many people.”
The WikiLeaks founder took refuge in the London Ecuadorian Embassy for almost seven years where he repeatedly violated the terms of asylum. He was jailed on Wednesday for just under a year for breaching bail conditions to avoid being extradited to Sweden.
The US charges against Assange detailed the largest compromises of information in the history. Ben Brandon, who represented the government at the Westminster Magistrates’ court in London, claimed that Julian Assange if condemned could face a prison sentence of up to five years.
The Justice Department alleged Julian Assange for hacking the Pentagon computer by helping Former intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to crack a protected password of Defense computers. It was an attempt to assist Manning to download the classified records, which included thousands of reports about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as country’s diplomatic cables and updates on Guantánamo Bay detainee assessments. WikiLeaks published some of these documents in 2010 and 2011.
In the context of Assange’s hearing, his supporters gathered outside the London court as well as in front of the US Embassy, claiming for his freedom. Lauri Love, a British activist who was alleged for breaking into the government sites, also stood in favor of Julian Assange.
“Julian may have a different mental constitution to me, but in my experience, [facing the threat of extradition] was harrowing,” said Love, who added he was optimistic because of what he said, was “vast public support”.
“If this extradition is successful and Julian is punished vindictively by the United States, it will be because of publications that were made in the public interest that shed light on atrocities and war crimes, and it will exert a chilling effect on the press,” he added.
Since Assange declined to surrender to the US, two more hearings have been scheduled for May 30 and June 12. By that time, his lawyers would be receiving all paperwork from the US.
Had Julian Assange agreed to the US extradition, the case could have resolved early. However, with his refusal to surrender, the case might take many months before any final judgment is drawn.