WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is scheduled to appear in February at a court hearing in Britain to decide whether or not he will be extradited to the U.S. to face trial, according to a ruling by a London judge on Friday.
Assange has been charged with 18 felony counts by the U.S. federal government and could face life in prison if extradited and found guilty. The hearing in Feb. 2020 is expected to last several days.
“WikiLeaks is nothing but a publisher,” Assange said via video link in the courtroom on Friday to defend his actions, according to the BBC.
U.S. officials disagree with Assange’s distinction about his work and want to make an example out of him for publishing information that exposed the incompetence and criminality of the deep state.
“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,” said Ben Brandon, who is representing the U.S. in the court proceedings.
Jennifer Robinson, Assange’s legal counsel, spoke outside the hearing on her client’s behalf. He was too ill to actually appear in court, as his health has waned rapidly in recent months since being hauled out of the Ecuadorean embassy in London.
Robinson claimed that Assange being punished for publishing “truthful information about the United States” including “evidence of war crimes, human rights abuse and corruption the world over” would “place a chilling impact” on whistle-blowers and journalists “all over the world.”
WikiLeaks released a letter on their Twitter account signed by 37 members of the European Parliament calling on the European Commission to prevent the extradition of Assange:
37 MEPs call on the European Commission to prevent the extradition of Assange to the US: "his detention constitutes not only an attack on the right to information, which is a fundamental pillar of democracy, but also contravenes both international and European legislation." pic.twitter.com/rTqWxVKV05
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) June 21, 2019
“His detention constitutes not only an attack on the right to information, which is a fundamental pillar of democracy, but also contravenes both international and European legislation,” the letter reads.
Ford Fischer of News2Share noted that Chelsea Manning, who leaked sensitive military data to Assange exposing war crimes, has been incarcerated for over 100 days now for refusing to cooperate with the Assange investigation.
President Donald Trump, who loved WikiLeaks while he was on the campaign trail, is now overseeing an unprecedented crackdown against the organization’s founder that could have dire, long-standing ramifications against journalistic freedom while in the Oval Office.
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