Decision on Assange’s fate will not come for at least another eight months.
By Joe Lauria
Special to Consortium News
A decision on whether Julian Assange will be extradited to the United States to face charges under the Espionage Act will not come until the end of February 2020 at the earliest, the Westminster Magistrate’s Court ruled on Friday.
Tristan Kirk, the London Evening Standard‘s courts reporter, tweeted:
Julian Assange will not face a full extradition hearing until next year, court hears. Five day hearing to be listed on a date after Feb 24.
— Tristan Kirk (@kirkkorner) June 14, 2019
Kirk said he argued his way into the court room after he and the rest of the media had been barred by a security guard from entering the public hearing that lasted under 30 minutes.
As Ben Brandon, the lawyer representing the United States, ran through a summary of the accusations against him including that he had cracked a U.S. defence network password, Assange said: “I didn’t break any password whatsoever.”
The WikiLeaks publisher told the court that “175 years of my life is effectively at stake,” according to Sky News. He addressed the judge as Lady Arbuthnot, saying: “WikiLeaks is nothing but a publisher.” Mark Summers, a lawyer representing Assange, told the court there are a “multiplicity of profound issues” with the extradition case, Sky News reported.
“We say it represents an outrageous and full-frontal assault on journalistic rights,” he said.
Assange spoke to the court via video link from Belmarsh prison where he is serving a 50-week sentence for skipping bail on a Swedish sexual assault investigation. Assange sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in June 2012 to avoid onward extradition from Sweden to the United States. He was arrested on April 11 when Ecuador allowed British police to enter the embassy.
The British home secretary signed the extradition request from the U.S. on Wednesday. Sajiid Javid said Thursday: “I want to see justice done at all times and we’ve got a legitimate extradition request, so I’ve signed it, but the final decision is now with the courts.”
Both sides in the extradition battle will now have about eight months to prepare their case.
Assange’s Belmarsh sentence will end at the end of March 2020, meaning he will remain in the maximum security prison until the extradition hearing.
— Flick Ruby (@FlickRubicon) June 14, 2019