WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Thursday told a court in London that he is unwilling to be extradited to the United States. Assange is wanted in the US on charges of conspiring to hack into a Pentagon computer in 2010. The police had arrested the journalist on April 11 after the Ecuadorean embassy in London ended his asylum.
“I do not wish to surrender myself for extradition for doing journalism that has won many awards and protected many people,” Assange told the Westminster Magistrate’s court via video link from the Belmarsh Prison in London on Thursday, BBC reported.
Assange’s supporters gathered both inside and outside court. Inside its premises, they chanted “shame on you” at Judge Michael Snow, AP reported. Outside, people holding posters demanding his freedom blocked the road.
Snow said it will be “many months” before a full hearing on the extradition case could be held. He added that a procedural hearing will be held on May 30, followed by a substantive hearing on June 12. The second hearing will be conducted after the US sends a full extradition request which is studied by Assange’s lawyers.
“The fight has just begun. It will be a long one and a hard one,” WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief Kristinn Hrafnsson said. He claimed that the journalist was being held in “appalling conditions” in Belmarsh Prison.
On Wednesday, the court sentenced Assange to 50 weeks in jail for skipping bail in 2012 and entering the embassy. Assange had jumped bail to avoid being extradited to Sweden in connection with sexual assault allegations. The charges were dropped and the case was closed in 2017 because of his absence.
In 2010, WikiLeaks had released a tranche of military and diplomatic documents, including those pertaining to the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, uncovering potential war crimes. Manning is in jail at present for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury in connection with the government’s investigation into Wikileaks.