Judge tells ‘narcissist’ Julian Assange to ‘get over to US’

Julian Assange was branded a "narcissist" by a judge as he faced court after struggling with police as he was dragged from the Ecuadorian embassy.

The WikiLeaks founder gave waiting photographers the thumbs up through the window of a white van as he arrived on Thursday afternoon.

He was greeted by a packed press bench and a full public gallery, also mainly made up of journalists, as he entered the dock at Westminster Magistrates' Court.

With his long, grey hair pulled tightly back into a ponytail, and white straggly beard, Assange looked older than his 47 years as he swaggered in wearing a black suit, and open-necked black shirt.

Assange saluted the public gallery and gave a thumbs up to one of his supporters, who was wearing a high-visibility vest and a pin badge featuring his hero's face.

Julian Assange extradition
Julian Assange extradition

He then sat calmly reading his copy of Gore Vidal's History Of The National Security State as the court waited for his lawyers to arrive, prompting District Judge Michael Snow to remark: "If they are much longer I will have to ask security to go and get them."

Assange stood to state his name and date of birth, before James Hines, representing the US government, told the judge Assange had been arrested on Thursday morning on two warrants.

He outlined the long history of the case, which dated back to an allegation of sexual offences in Sweden in August 2010.

Assange went to the Ecuadorian Embassy on June 19 2012 after exhausting his legal options, his challenge against an extradition order having failed in the Supreme Court.

Mr Hines said a warrant for his arrest was issued on June 29 2012 and Assange remained in breach of bail despite Swedish prosecutors being forced to drop the case against him because they could not interview the suspect.

A further warrant was issued in December 2017 after the US applied to extradite Assange.

The court heard police officers arrived at the Ecuadorian Embassy in Knightsbridge at around 9.15am and were met by the ambassador.

"He indicated he was preparing to serve upon Mr Assange documentation revoking his asylum," said Mr Hines.

"Officers tried to introduce themselves to him (Assange) in order to execute the arrest warrant before he barged past them, attempting to return to his private room.

"He was eventually arrested at 10.15am.

"He resisted that arrest, claiming 'this is unlawful' and he had to be restrained.

"Officers were struggling to handcuff him. They received assistance from other officers outside and he was handcuffed saying, 'this is unlawful, I'm not leaving'.

"He was in fact lifted into the police van outside the embassy and taken to West End Central police station."

Julian Assange extradition
Julian Assange extradition

The court heard the US has requested Assange's extradition over an allegation that he conspired with intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to download confidential documents.

Assange was then asked to stand as the court's clerk read out the charge that he had failed to surrender to custody on June 29 2012.

He entered a plea of not guilty, but there was a moment of confusion as Assange was then told he was charged under a different section of the Bail Act.

When asked if he still denied the charge, Assange replied: "I'm a bit curious as to why there's been this sudden change."

There were giggles in court as the judge explained: "The computer produced the wrong section."

Assange again pleaded not guilty, telling the judge his lawyer Liam Walker, would make the "appropriate representations".

Mr Walker said that his defence of "reasonable excuse" partly relied on his claim the Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot, who has previously dealt with the case, was biased against him.

He alleged her husband, Lord Arbuthnot, was directly impacted by the activities of WikiLeaks and Assange.

But the visibly angry judge told Mr Walker it was "unacceptable" for him to air the claim in front of a "packed press gallery".

"This is grossly unfair and improper to do it just to ruin the reputation of a senior and able judge in front of the press," he said.

Finding Assange guilty of breaching the Bail Act, the judge said of Assange: "He has chosen not to give evidence, he has chosen to make assertions about a senior judge not having the courage to place himself before the court for the purpose of cross-examination.

"Those assertions made through counsel are not evidence as a matter of law.

"I find they are not capable of amounting to a reasonable excuse."

He went on to describe Assange's defence as "laughable", adding: "Mr Assange's behaviour is that of a narcissist who cannot get beyond his own selfish interests.

Julian Assange extradition
Julian Assange extradition

"He hasn't come close to establishing 'reasonable excuse'.

"His behaviour through his counsel is shameful."

Remanding Assange in custody, the judge told him he will be sentenced at a date to be set in Southwark Crown Court, the judge added: "This is a case which merits the maximum sentence, which is 12 months in the Crown Court."

He will next appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court on May 2 by prison video-link in relation to the extradition case, which will be listed for a mention hearing every seven days.

In a final barbed remark, the judge suggested Assange should "get over to the US" and "get on with your life".

Assange waved to the public gallery as he was taken down to the cells.

Outside court, a crowd of about 20 of his supporters had gathered on the pavement with signs reading Free Assange and No Extradition.

They chanted: "There's only one decision. No extradition" and "True journalists support Julian Assange".

Speaking to a waiting pack of reporters, photographers and camera operators, WikiLeaks' editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson said: "Anyone who wants the press to be free should consider the implications of this case.

"If they will extradite a journalist to the US then no journalist will be safe. This must stop. This must end."