Author Urges ‘People to Free Assange’ as London Court Start Extradition Hearing


WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange faced a court hearing Thursday over the USA request to extradite him for allegedly conspiring to hack a Pentagon computer.

The US has requested the extradition of the Wikileaks founder, but he told Westminster Magistrates' Court he does not want to be extradited.

Assange had sought asylum with Ecuador in 2012 to avoid facing extradition to Sweden on charges of rape and sexual assault.

Assange is wanted in the United States to face charges relating to what lawyers have called "one of the largest compromising of classified information in USA history".

Assange was arrested last month after his relationship with his embassy hosts went sour and Ecuador revoked his political asylum status.

Just hours after police finally removed from the Ecuadorean embassy in London on April 11, US prosecutors said they had charged Assange with conspiracy in trying to access a classified USA government computer.

British Judge Deborah Taylor handed him a sentence just under the maximum term for the offense, which was a full year, saying he displayed a "disdain for the law of this country".

Manning passed hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks, exposing United States military wrongdoing in the Iraq war and diplomatic secrets about scores of countries.

Kentucky Derby favorite Omaha Beach scratched from Saturday's race
Beyond the Triple Crown, NBC Sports broadcasts some of the most important and prestigious events in all of horse racing. Exercise rider Taylor Cambra rides Kentucky Derby entrant Omaha Beach during a workout at Churchill Downs Wednesday.

In mitigation for Assange, Mark Summers QC told the court the Australian had been "gripped" by fears that his work with WikiLeaks would provoke rendition to Guantanamo Bay or the USA, where he could face the death penalty.

Hours after Assange was arrested, US prosecutors confirmed that they had charged Assange with one count of conspiracy to hack a computer for his role in the 2010 release of thousands of secret government documents.

If Stockholm makes a formal extradition request, Britain must decide whether to consider it before or after that of the United States. Assange was unable to learn the password, but the U.S. argues that his attempt is sufficient to charge him with conspiracy.

Assange's health had seriously declined as a result of being confined in a small room in the Embassy, and he had been unable to access treatment for a number of medical issues.

Massi Fritz said in a tweet that she and her team would "do everything we possibly can to get the Swedish police investigation re-opened so that Assange can be extradited to Sweden and prosecuted for rape".

British Judge Michael Snow said the United States extradition case will now take "many months", and set a procedural hearing for May 30 and a more substantive hearing for June 12. But after his arrest in London last month, Swedish prosecutors said they were considering reopening the investigation into Assange.

Wikileaks called the sentence "as shocking as it is vindictive", citing a concern Mr Assange would not receive a fair hearing.