US submits extradition request for Assange

Julian Assange

Julian Assange

The legal battle over Julian Assange's extradition to the United States is set to begin in a London courtroom on Friday, but one of his closest supporters doubts the WikiLeaks founder has any chance of success in court.

Assange was arrested by the United Kingdom authorities mid-April, after he spent over six-years under asylum in the Embassy of Ecuador in London.

He did not appear at a short hearing on May 30, where chief magistrate Emma Arbuthnot and solicitor Gareth Peirce referred to him as "not very well".

Mr Assange was initially charged with a single computer crime violation on allegations that he worked with Ms Manning to crack a government password. A Swedish court ruled last week that Assange should not be extradited to Sweden but should still be questioned in the case while he is imprisoned in Britain.

The Wikileaks founder is facing 18 charges in the United States of receiving and publishing classified information.

A formal request for Assange's extradition was delivered to British authorities last Thursday, just days before a June 11 deadline.

Sources familiar with the USA extradition request said that it is based on an indictment federal prosecutors in Alexandria, Virginia filed against Assange in May. That is because the U.S. -U.K. treaty prohibits extradition for the specific charges Assange faces.

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USA authorities allege the whistleblower conspired with Manning, 31, "with reason to believe that the information was to be used to the injury of the United States or the advantage of a foreign nation".

However, Manning has now been jailed for refusing to testify before a Virginia-based federal grand jury which is continuing to investigate WikiLeaks.

"The American authorities, the Department of Justice, will present the evidence in support of their extradition demand", Kristinn Hrafnsson told reporters.

After his removal from the Ecuadorean Embassy, Assange was jailed by a British court for 50 weeks for jumping bail while being sought by Swedish authorities in the sexual assault case.

The 18 charges against Mr Assange reject his claim he was simply a publisher receiving leaked material - which would be protected under press freedom legislation.

He said the Espionage Act was part of an "archaic legal framework. and has never been used against a publisher and a journalist". "Some say that Assange is a journalist and that he should be immune from prosecution for these actions", John Demers, the Assistant Attorney-General for National Security, said when the indictment was filed last month.

Detained at London's Belmarsh high-security prison, Mr Assange has been transferred to a medical unit due to concerns about his health. Ai Weiwei will be joined by Assange's father, Richard Assange.

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