Julian Assange court hearing as fight against extradition to US continues

Julian Assange will appear in court later as he continues to fight against extradition to the United States over allegations he conspired to break into a classified Pentagon computer.

The WikiLeaks founder is expected to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court via videolink from Belmarsh prison for a case management hearing.

The Australian’s second extradition hearing is not expected to be a full hearing on the matter.

Assange formally refused to consent to being extradited during a hearing which lasted a little over 10 minutes on May 2.

Julian Assange extradition
Julian Assange extradition

Meanwhile, an investigation into rape allegations against Assange, which he denies, has been reopened by Swedish prosecutors who have requested Uppsala District Court detains him in his absence.

Deputy director of public prosecution Eva-Marie Persson said if the court decides to detain Assange, she “will issue a European Arrest Warrant concerning surrender to Sweden”.

“In the event of a conflict between a European Arrest Warrant and a request for extradition from the US, UK authorities will decide on the order of priority,” she said.

Assange sought political asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in 2012 after the leaks of hundreds of thousands of classified US diplomatic cables on his whistleblowing website.

He took refuge inside after exhausting all legal options in fighting extradition to Sweden over two separate claims, one of rape and one of molestation.

Also this month, the Ecuadorian government confirmed officials were searching through Assange’s belongings left at its embassy following a request from the United States.

In a statement published online, the Ecuadorian government said the search was to identify and confiscate belongings of Assange that could offer clues to possible criminal activity.

The search was being carried out under the authorisation of a judge and following a request for judicial assistance from the US, the statement said.

Just days later, Assange was charged in the United States with receiving and publishing thousands of classified documents linked to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The US Justice Department has indicted Assange on 18 counts that relate to his “alleged role in one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States”, it said.

He is accused of working with former US army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in “unlawfully obtaining and disclosing classified documents related to the national defence”, a statement said.

The Justice Department said that by publishing unredacted versions of the leaked files, Assange put “named human sources at a grave and imminent risk”.

After a federal grand jury returned the indictment, WikiLeaks swiftly issued a tweet describing the move as “madness”.

Last week, Home Secretary Sajid Javid was urged by WikiLeaks to block Assange’s extradition to the US in the name of press freedom.

The organisation said Mr Javid was under “enormous pressure to protect the rights of the free press in the UK and elsewhere” after its founder was hit with the raft of new charges by the US Department of Justice.

Assange is serving a 50-week sentence in Belmarsh Prison in London for bail violations.