Extradition trial of Julian Assange begins in London after a long delay due to the coronavirus outbreak.
THIS week sees Julian Assange, 49, return to court in London to battle to avoid extradition to the US where he is called to face criminal charges for the activities of the WikiLeaks website.
The trial was due to go ahead earlier this year however was postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent lockdown in the UK.
Australian-born Assange is accused of a conspiracy to hack US government tech and violating a US espionage law through the release of confidential documentation through his site, WikiLeaks, from 2010-2011.
Julian Assange is an Australian born editor, publisher and activist. He founded and launched the, now infamous, site; WikiLeaks, in 2006.
WikiLeaks achieved an international reputation in 2010 when it published a range of Army Intelligence leaks gather from army analyst, Chelsea Manning. The leaks included war logs from 2001’s Iraq war and 2010’s Afghanistan war.
After the leaks made it into the public arena, the United States government mounted a criminal investigation in WikiLeaks and its founder.
An international arrest warrant was issued by Sweden in 2010. He had been questioned by the authorities regarding allegations of sexual assault however Assange fervently denied these allegations.
In December 2010, Assange surrendered to the UK police force and was released on bail. However, he breached his bail conditions in June 2012 taking refuge in in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London after having been granted asylum by Ecuador and remained in the Embassy for seven years.
In 2016, during the US Democratic presidential primaries, Assange’s WikiLeaks site released a range of email communications by Hillary Clinton who was Secretary of State at the time. US investigations into the leak concluded that a hacking campaign had been carried out by the Russian government. Assange has ardently denied any connection to Russia in his ownership of the WikiLeaks site.
Having been granted Ecuadorian citizenship in 2018, this was withdrawn in 2019 after a series of disagreements with the Ecuadorian authorities. At this time, his asylum was revoked, and the UK police were invited to the Embassy where Assange was arrested.
This court case sees Assange on trial relating to the ongoing US extradition request.
Admirers of WikiLeaks and Assange himself claim that he is a champion of free speech and Assange further claims that request for his extradition is solely politically motivated. However his critics determine that by publishing non-redacted official documents, Assange has actively and knowingly endangered the survival of intelligence agents in Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq.
Further criticism of Assange and WikiLeaks comes from his involvement in the Russian interference scandal however this does not form part of the current legal proceedings.
Assange’s legal team argue that charges against Assange demonstrate a clear will to repress freedom of the press in a politically motivated attack. Further defence arguments state that he would be a high suicide risk if extradited to the US.
Lawyers have again applied for bail for Assange however due to previously skipping bail conditions, the courts view him as a high flight risks and therefore denied his request and ordered him held in custody.
Assange remains in custody pending the outcome of the extradition hearing with commenced in February however due to the coronavirus pandemic outbreak, the trial was postponed.
Assange was present at the February hearings and is expected to attend court again on Monday.
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