Wikileaks co-founder begins his fight against extradition to the United States with defiant statement
Wikileaker co-founder Julian Assange has told a London courtroom that he did not “wish to surrender myself” to a US extradition request.
Earlier this week Assange was found guilty in the Southwark Crown Court of breaching the Bail Act, and was sentenced to 50 weeks in jail, just under a year.
It comes after Assange was arrested last month, when British police entered the Ecuadorian Embassy and dragged him out, after a seven year stalemate.
Assange was immediately arrested and charged with breaking his bail conditions, after he had fled to the Ecuadorian Embassy in Knightsbridge in June 2012.
He had fled there after he lost his final plea to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he had faced allegations of raping a woman and sexually molesting and coercing another in Stockholm in August 2010. Those charges were dropped in 2015.
As soon as he was arrested for breaking his bail conditions last month, Assange was also further arrested on behalf of the United States authorities.
This was done under an extradition warrant under Section 73 of the Extradition Act.
And now Assange is currently being held in the high security Belmarsh prison in south-east London.
Assange appeared before Westminister magistrates court via video link, in which he contested his extradition to the US.
“I do not wish to surrender myself for extradition for doing journalism that has won many, many awards and protected many people,” he was quoted by the Guardian newspaper as saying.
“I’ll take that as a decline,” replied District Judge Michael Snow, presiding.
Barrister Ben Brandon, who is representing the US government, told the court that the US had evidence that Assange had been communicating with Bradley Manning (now Chelsea Manning), who had leaked sensitive American government files while serving as a private in the US Army.
Brandon alleged those files were illegally received by Julian Assange, who was then the editor-in-chief of Wikileaks, which went on to publish the documents.
The next hearing in Assange’s case is on 30 May.
But in the meantime UN experts have, according to the Guardian newspaper, called for Julian Assange to be released from prison and criticised the British government for breaching his human rights.
The UN working group on arbitrary detention (WGAD) said it was deeply concerned by the “disproportionate sentence” imposed on Assange for violating the terms of his bail, which it described as a “minor violation”.
The group has twice previously called for Assange to be freed, after it judged his confinement to the Ecuadorian embassy by the threat of arrest should he leave amounted to arbitrary detention.
Do you know all about security? Try our quiz!