Julian Assange today told a court that ‘175 years of my life is at stake’ as he was told he will not face a full extradition hearing until early next year.
The Wikileaks founder appeared via video link at Westminster Magistrates’ Court as he faces being extradited to the US over hacking top secret government documents.
A full hearing on the extradition request is now expected to take place in February, and is scheduled to last five days.
Assange is currently serving a 50-week prison sentence after being dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy in April and jailed for a bail violation.
If Assange only serves half of his sentence, he could potentially be out of prison when the extradition hearing takes place.
Speaking outside court after the hearing, his lawyer Jennifer Robinson called the case ‘an outrageous affront to journalistic protections.’
She said Assange is facing ‘a significant, complex case of huge size and scale’ and that it was ‘incredible pressure’ on him after he ‘suffered significant health impacts as a result of his time inside the embassy and now inside prison.’
Julian Assange, pictured leaving the Ecuadorian Embassy on April 11, is facing possible extradition to the United States where officials want to charge him for leaking secrets
Jennifer Robinson, lawyer of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, addresses the media at Westminster Magistrates Court after today’s hearing
Supporters of Julian Assange outside Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London for the latest extradition case management hearing for the WikiLeaks founder
The hearing came just a day after Home Secretary Sajid Javid singed an extradition request from the US, making it increasingly likely he will be sent to the US to stand trial.
Assange is wanted across the Atlantic for what US officials call ‘one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States’.
Jennifer Robinson, lawyer for Julain Assange, outside court today
If found guilty of all the charges against him, the Wikileaks founder could be jailed for 175 years.
Ben Brandon, representing the US, formally opened the case on Friday. Assange is fighting against extradition on 18 counts lodged in the US.
Assange, who had a scraggly white beard, told the court: ‘175 years of my life is effectively at stake.’
Addressing the judge as ‘Lady Arbuthnot’, he defended his website against hacking claims, saying: ‘WikiLeaks is nothing but a publisher.’
The court also heard that he has a date at the Court of Appeal, with his legal team later explaining he is to appeal against his sentence.
Mark Summers QC, representing Assange, told the court there are a ‘multiplicity of profound issues’ with the extradition case.
‘We say it represents an outrageous and full-frontal assault on journalistic rights,’ he said.
Evidence will show that Assange ‘first encouraged’ former US army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to illegally obtain documents, Mr Brandon alleged.
The crowd of around a dozen supporters held banners, including one with the message ‘Free Assange’ outside Westminster Magistrates’ Court today
Some protesters chanted ‘justice for Julian Assange’ and ‘Defend freedom and democracy’
Then Assange agreed with her to ‘crack’ a password hash on a Pentagon computer, the lawyer continued.
‘By taking steps to crack the password hash, it’s said that Mr Assange was also attempting to illegally obtain and receive classified information,’ Mr Brandon said.
The documents relate to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and, the lawyer alleged, information on secret intelligence sources.
‘By publishing that unredacted material on the internet, Mr Assange created a grave and imminent risk that human intelligence sources, including journalists, human rights defenders and political activists, would suffer serious physical harm or arbitrary detention,’ Mr Brandon said.
Julian Assange pictured as he is led out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in handcuffs following his arrest by British police in April. He is being investigated in Sweden and the U.S.
Giving a statement outside court after the hearing, Jennifer Robinson, one of Julian Assange’s lawyers, said: ‘This case is an outrageous affront to journalistic protections.
What is the process for extraditing someone to the US and how far down the path is Julian Assange?
1. Extradition request is made to the Secretary of State. In Assange’s case, this took place on Tuesday, when the U.S. authorities sent a formal request to Sajid Javid.
2. Secretary of State decides whether to certify the request. In Assange’s case, this has happened
3. Judge decides whether to issue a warrant for arrest. This will not be necessary in Assange’s case, as he is already in custody for breaching his bail.
4. Preliminary hearing. An earlier attempt to hold the hearing was delayed when Assange was said to be too ill to come to court.
5. Extradition hearing. A full hearing of the issues will later be presented to a court. U.S. Authorities will be represented by one team of lawyers. Assange will be represented by his own lawyers. A judge decides whether there is ‘prima facie evidence of guilt’ and whether extradition would breach a person’s human rights.
6. Appeal. A judge’s decision to extradite someone can be appealed in the High Court. Assange declined to consent to be extradite, suggesting he is planning to appeal any decision against him.
7. Secretary of State decides whether to order extradition. The final decision is then made by the Home Secretary. Mr Javid’s comments today suggest that if he were to still be Home Secretary at that time, this would be a formality.
8. Possible further appeal. People facing extradition can also appeal the Home Secretary’s rubber stamping of their case in the High Court and potentially the Supreme Court. The history of Assange’s case suggests this is likely if the case gets this far.
‘This indictment will place a chilling impact and will affect journalists and publishers everywhere all over the world, by the US seeking to extradite and prosecute a publisher outside the US, who is not a US citizen, for having published truthful information about the United States.’
She said the material included ‘evidence of war crimes, human rights abuse and corruption the world over’.
She added that Assange’s legal team are ‘very concerned about his health’ as he remains in a healthcare ward at Belmarsh prison in south east London.
Ms Robinson said: ‘He is under a huge amount of pressure and in very difficult circumstances. He is facing, a significant, complex case of huge size and scale and that is incredible pressure to be placed upon someone who has already suffered significant health impacts as a result of his time inside the embassy and now inside prison.
‘It has been difficult to have access to him. Its difficult to prepare the case in circumstances where he is in a healthcare ward, where he doesn’t have access to a computer to be able to prepare the case, and that’s why such a long timetable was set down today.
‘We continue to have concerns about the adequacy of the facilities we have which are fundamental to his right to be able to defend himself in these proceedings.
‘These are incredibly serious charges which impact upon typical newsgathering activities that journalists engage in all the time the world over.’
Protesters earlier gathered outside court holding banners, including one with the message ‘Free Assange’.
Some chanted ‘justice for Julian Assange’ and ‘Defend freedom and democracy’.
Mr Javid said he had signed and certified an extradition order on Wednesday, although the final decision rests with the courts.
Protestor Jeannie Farr, who was outside Westminster Magistrates’ Court today said the US request was ‘illegal and immoral.’
She said: ‘It completely forgets the due process of law.
‘We used to have some notion in a democracy that you were innocent until proven guilty.’
US actress Pamela Anderson also visited Assange at the high-security jail on May 7
On Monday, Assange was today visited by his Chinese artist Ai Weiwei (left) and his father John Shipton (right) at HMP Belmarsh in London
Ms Farr, who travelled to the demonstration from Stratford-upon-Avon, added: ‘I don’t think a process can be legal if it’s been set in motion through illegal actions and taking Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy was not done in any way from the rule of law.’
And an investigation has also been reopened into an allegation of rape in Sweden, which Assange has always denied.
Mr Javid told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I am very pleased that the police were finally able to apprehend him and now he’s rightly behind bars because he broke UK law.
‘There is an extradition request from the US… I signed the extradition order and certified it and that will be going in front of the courts.’
He said it was a decision for the courts over whether Assange should be extradited.
Mr Javid added: ‘There is a very important part of it for the Home Secretary and 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.’
HMP Belmarsh in London, where Assange is serving 50 weeks for skipping bail but could be extradited to the US
A Home Office spokesman said: ‘Mr Assange was arrested in relation to a provisional extradition request from the United States of America.
‘He is accused of offences including computer misuse and the unauthorised disclosure of national defence information.
‘We have received the full extradition request, which has been certified by the Home Secretary.
‘This case is now before the courts and it would be inappropriate to comment further.’
This week Assange has been visited in prison by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei and his father. Former Baywatch star Pamela Anderson has also been to see him.
Last month he was moved to a medical ward at Belmarsh as his supporters expressed ‘grave concerns’ about his health.
Weiwei, who was detained without charge in China for 81 days in 2011 during a crackdown on political activists, is believed to have previously visited Assange in 2015 when he was holed up inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
Assange’s father John Shipton said after visiting his son: ‘It was just very moving to see Julian, particularly in those circumstances, coming out of sick bay and having lost 10kg weight.’
He said: ‘I think he’ll be alright.’
Julian Assange’s long legal battle
Assange creates Wikileaks with a group of like-minded activists and IT experts to provide a secure way for whistleblowers to leak information. He quickly becomes its figurehead and a lightning rod for criticism.
March: U.S. authorities allege Assange engaged in a conspiracy to hack a classified U.S. government computer with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.
July: Wikileaks starts releasing tens of thousands of top secrets documents, including a video of U.S. helicopter pilots gunning down 12 civilians in Baghdad in 2007. What followed was the release of more than 90,000 classified US military files from the Afghan war and 400,000 from Iraq that included the names of informants.
August: Two Swedish women claim that they each had consensual sex with Assange in separate instances when he was on a 10-day trip to Stockholm. They allege the sex became non-consensual when Assange refused to wear a condom.
First woman claims Assange was staying at her apartment in Stockholm when he ripped off her clothes. She told police that when she realized Assange was trying to have unprotected sex with her, she demanded he use a condom. She claims he ripped the condom before having sex.
Second Swedish woman claims she had sex with Assange at her apartment in Stockholm and she made him wear a condom. She alleges that she later woke up to find Assange having unprotected sex with her.
He was questioned by police in Stockholm and denied the allegations. Assange was granted permission by Swedish authorities to fly back to the U.K.
November: A Swedish court ruled that the investigation should be reopened and Assange should be detained for questioning on suspicion of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion. An international arrest warrant is issued by Swedish police through Interpol.
Wikileaks releases its cache of more than 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables.
December: Assange presents himself to London police and appears at an extradition hearing where he is remanded in custody. Assange is granted conditional bail at the High Court in London after his supporters pay £240,000 in cash and sureties.
February: A British judge rules Assange should be extradited to Sweden but Wikileaks found vows to fight the decision.
April: A cache of classified U.S. military documents is released by Wikileaks, including intelligence assessments on nearly all of the 779 people who are detained at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.
November: Assange loses High Court appeal against the decision to extradite him.
June: Assange enters the Ecuadorian embassy in London requesting political asylum.
August: Assange is granted political asylum by Ecuador.
June: Assange tells a group of journalists he will not leave the embassy even if sex charges against him are dropped out of fear he will be extradited to the U.S.
August: Swedish prosecutors drop investigation into some of the sex allegations against Assange due to time restrictions. The investigation into suspected rape remains active.
July: Wikileaks begins leaking emails U.S. Democratic Party officials favoring Hillary Clinton.
November: Assange is questioned over the sex allegation at the Ecuadorian Embassy in the presence of Sweden’s assistant prosecutor Ingrid Isgren and police inspector Cecilia Redell. The interview spans two days.
January: Barack Obama agrees to free whistleblower Chelsea Manning from prison. Her pending release prompts speculation Assange will end his self-imposed exile after Wikileaks tweeted he would agree to U.S. extradition.
April: Lenin Moreno becomes the new president of Ecuador who was known to want to improve diplomatic relations between his country and the U.S.
May: An investigation into a sex allegation against Assange is suddenly dropped by Swedish prosecutors.
January: Ecuador confirms it has granted citizenship to Assange following his request.
February: Assange is visited by Pamela Anderson and Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel.
March: The Ecuadorian Embassy suspends Assange’s internet access because he wasn’t complying with a promise he made the previous year to ‘not send messages which entailed interference in relation to other states’.
August: U.S. Senate committee asks to interview Assange as part of their investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election.
September: Assange steps down as editor of WikiLeaks.
October: Assange reveals he will launch legal action against the government of Ecuador, accusing it of violating his ‘fundamental rights and freedoms’.
November: U.S. Justice Department inadvertently names Assange in a court document that says he has been charged in secret.
January: Assange’s lawyers say they are taking action to make President Trump’s administration reveal charges ‘secretly filed’ against him.
April 6: WikiLeaks tweets that a high level Ecuadorian source has told them Assange will be expelled from the embassy within ‘hours or days’. But a senior Ecuadorian official says no decision has been made to remove him from the London building.
April 11: Assange has his diplomatic asylum revoked by Ecuador and he is arrested by the Metropolitan Police; he is remanded in custody by a judge at Westminster Magistrates Court.
April 12: He is found guilty of breaching his bail terms.
May 1: Sentenced to 11 months in jail.
May 2: Court hearing takes place over Assange’s proposed extradition to the U.S. He tells a court he does not consent to the extradition and the case is adjourned until May 30.
May 13: Swedish prosecutors reopen rape case saying they still want to question Assange.
June 3: Swedish court rules against detaining him in absentia, setting back the extradition case.
June 12 Home Secretary Sajid Javid signs an extradition request from the US.
June 13 A hearing sets out the date for Assange’s full extradition hearing – February next year.