AS­SANGE BID TO DE­LAY EX­TRA­DI­TION HEAR­ING DE­NIED

Chicago Sun-Times - - NATION / WORLD - BY JILL LAW­LESS

LONDON — A Bri­tish judge on Mon­day re­jected a re­quest by lawyers for Wik­iLeaks founder Ju­lian As­sange to de­lay his ex­tra­di­tion hear­ing un­til next year to give his lawyers more time to re­spond to U.S. al­le­ga­tions that he con­spired with hack­ers to ob­tain clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion.

The ad­journ­ment re­quest came on the first day of a London court hear­ing where As­sange is fight­ing Amer­i­can prose­cu­tors’ at­tempt to send him to the U.S. to stand trial on spy­ing charges.

U.S. prose­cu­tors have in­dicted the 49-yearold Aus­tralian on 18 es­pi­onage and com­puter mis­use charges over Wik­iLeaks’ pub­li­ca­tion of se­cret U.S. mil­i­tary doc­u­ments a decade ago. The charges carry a max­i­mum sen­tence of 175 years in prison.

As­sange’s lawyers say the pros­e­cu­tion is a po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated abuse of power that will sti­fle press free­dom and put jour­nal­ists around the world at risk.

The U.S. Jus­tice Depart­ment ex­panded its case against As­sange in a new in­dict­ment an­nounced in June, though it did not in­tro­duce new charges. But As­sange at­tor­ney Mark Sum­mers said it was “an im­pos­si­ble task” for the le­gal team to deal with the new al­le­ga­tions in time for Mon­day’s court hear­ing, es­pe­cially since they had only “lim­ited ac­cess” to the im­pris­oned As­sange.

He said Dis­trict Judge Vanessa Baraitser should ex­cise the new Amer­i­can claims, which he said were sprung on the de­fense “out of the blue.”

The judge re­jected the re­quest, say­ing the de­fense had de­clined an ear­lier op­por­tu­nity in Au­gust to post­pone the hear­ing. The de­fense then asked for the case to be ad­journed un­til Jan­uary. Baraitser re­fused, say­ing As­sange’s lawyers had “am­ple time” be­fore Mon­day to ex­press their con­cerns.

The case has al­ready been held up for months be­cause of the coro­n­avirus pan­demic.

As­sange, who has spent 16 months in a Bri­tish prison, sat in the dock at the Old Bai­ley crim­i­nal court and for­mally re­fused the U.S. ex­tra­di­tion de­mand. As­sange, who lawyers say has suf­fered phys­i­cal and men­tal ill health be­cause of his or­deal, wore a suit and tie and spoke clearly to con­firm his name and date of birth.

Sev­eral dozen sup­port­ers, in­clud­ing fash­ion de­signer Vivi­enne West­wood and As­sange’s part­ner, Stella Moris, gath­ered out­side the court­house, chant­ing, bang­ing drums and call­ing his pros­e­cu­tion a threat to press free­dom.

“Ju­lian As­sange is the trig­ger, he is shin­ing the light on all the cor­rup­tion in the world,” West­wood said.

LEON NEAL/GETTY IM­AGES

Sup­port­ers of Wik­iLeaks founder Ju­lian As­sange and mem­bers of the me­dia gather as a van be­lieved to be car­ry­ing As­sange leaves af­ter a court hear­ing Mon­day in London.

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