Julian Assange’s request to delay extradition hearing denied in U.K. court

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange appeared in court on Ocotber 21 to fight extradition to the United States on charges of espionage, saying he needed more time to prepare his case.

Mr. Assange and his legal team failed to convince District Judge Vanessa Baraitser that a slowdown was justified. The full extradition is still set for a five-day hearing in late February, with brief interim hearings in November and December.

Mr. Assange defiantly raised a fist to supporters who jammed the public gallery in Westminster Magistrates Court. He appears to have lost weight but looked healthy. Assange wore a blue sweater and a blue sports jacket for the hearing, and wore his silvery-gray hair slicked back.

After the judge turned down his bid for a three-month delay, Mr. Assange speaking very softly and at times appearing to be near tears said he didn’t understand the proceedings.

“They have all the advantages,” the 48-year-old Mr. Assange said.

Also read: Standing up for Julian Assange

Lawyer Mark Summers, representing Mr. Assange, told the judge that more time was needed to prepare Mr. Assange’s defense against “unprecedented” use of espionage charges against a journalist. Mr. Summers said the case has many facets and will require a “mammoth” amount of planning and preparation.

“We need more time,” Mr. Summers said, asking for a three-month delay. He said Mr. Assange would mount a political defense that will be laborious to prepare.

Mr. Summers said the initial case against Mr. Assange was prepared during the administration of former President Barack Obama in 2010 but wasn’t acted on until Donald Trump assumed the presidency. He said it represents the administrations aggressive attitude toward whistleblowers.

Representing the U.S., lawyer James Lewis said the U.S. opposed any delay to the proceeding.

Also read: Editorial | Secrets and agents: arrest of Assange

The case is expected to take months to resolve, with each side able to make several appeals of rulings.

The public gallery was jammed with Mr. Assange’s supporters, including former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, and outside the courthouse others carried placards calling for Mr. Assange to be released. There were chants calling for him to be set free.

The judge said the full hearing will be heard at Belmarsh Court, which would make it easier for Mr. Assange to attend and contains more room for the media.

Mr. Assange’s lawyers said the five days wouldn’t be enough for the entire case to be heard.

Former Home Secretary Sajid Javid signed an order in June allowing Assange to be extradited. U.S. authorities accuse Mr. Assange of scheming with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to break a password for a classified government computer.

Mr. Assange claims he is a journalist entitled to First Amendment protection.


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