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'It will be a question of life and death': Julian Assange to face hearing on US extradition in London

The Wikileaks founder was jailed for 50 weeks yesterday.

Protesters outside court as Julian Assange was sentenced yesterday
Protesters outside court as Julian Assange was sentenced yesterday
Image: Matt Dunham/PA Images

JULIAN ASSANGE WILL will face an initial hearing in London today over an extradition request from the United States.

The Wikileaks founder, who was arrested last month after spending seven years in Ecuador’s London embassy, was jailed for 50 weeks yesterday for breaching his bail conditions.

The US has sought to extradite the Australian whistleblower to face charges of “conspiracy” for working with former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.

The indictment, which was only revealed following Assange’s arrest, accuses him of helping crack a password stored on US Department of Defence computers in March 2010.

The charge carries a maximum sentence of five years.

Manning passed hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks, exposing US military wrongdoing in the Iraq war and diplomatic secrets about dozens of countries.

WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson said on Wednesday that all efforts would now be focused on preventing Assange’s extradition to the US.

“It will be a question of life and death,” he warned.

Assange’s supporters believe that more serious charges could be filed if he is transferred to the US, and he fears the death penalty.

Hrafnsson was speaking outside London’s Southwark Crown Court, where a British judge handed Assange a 50-week jail term for breaching a British court order when he sought refuge in the embassy in June 2012.

In a letter read out on his behalf, Assange expressed regret, saying: “I did what I thought at the time was the best or perhaps the only thing that I could have done.”

“I apologise unreservedly,” he said.

Assange’s team is fighting his extradition and the process could take years.

With additional reporting from - © AFP 2019

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