Julian Assange appeals against jail for hiding in embassy as he fights extradition

Tristan Kirk
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Julian Assange appeals against jail for hiding in embassy as he fights extradition

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is appealing against the 50-week prison sentence imposed for hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy for more than seven years, a court heard today.

The 47-year-old is wanted in the United States over claims he was involved in the hacking and leak of a mass of classified documents in 2010 through the WikiLeaks website.

He sought refuge in the London embassy in 2012, claiming he would be sent on to the US if he agreed to be extradited to Sweden over unrelated sex assault claims, which he denies.

Assange was dramatically ejected from the embassy earlier this year and then convicted for failing to appear in court. He has now lodged an appeal against the prison sentence he received.

Dozens of supporters chanted

Mark Summers, representing Assange in the extradition battle, told Westminster magistrates court that preparations for the extradition hearing were going slowly while Assange is held in Belmarsh jail.

“He has no access to a computer and we are having to post documents to him, and if he is fortunate he will see the extradition request at some point next week”, he said.

Chief magistrate Emma Arbuthnot set a timetable for Assange’s extradition fight, with a five-day hearing starting on February 25 next year.

A banner with the Extinction Rebellion slogan has been unfurled in front of the court. It reads:

Assange faces 18 charges on a US indictment, alleging he worked with military analyst Chelsea Manning to hack computer systems and leak vast amounts of classified State Department and Pentagon documents relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and about Guantanamo Bay. It is said he was engaged with Manning in “real-time” attempts to crack passwords, and the leak exposed the names of US military sources and put them in danger.

But Mr Summers told the court the case against him is an “outrageous and full frontal assault on journalist rights”.

Prosecutor Ben Brandon told the court: “The charge relates to one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States.” Home Secretary Sajid Javid signed the extradition request this week, and it was handed to the court and Assange’s legal team yesterday.

As this morning’s hearing came to an end, a stuttering Assange — appearing via video-link from prison — interjected to complain about the “false reportage” of his case and to deny involvement in hacking any US computers.

“This is 175 years of my life effectively at stake, and there’s significant misreportage”, he said.

“The US government doesn’t allege WikiLeaks hacked anything or I broke any passwords whatsoever.”

Assange is fighting the extradition bid and denies the US espionage and computer hacking charges.