Julian Assange extradition case to be drawn out for months

AP International News

A demonstrator supporting Julian Assange wears a mask and chains outside Westminster Magistrates Court in London, Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020. Assange is scheduled to be presented before the court by videolink, for a case management hearing ahead of his full extradition trial which begins on Feb. 24. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

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LONDON (AP) — The complex extradition case designed to determine whether WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will be sent to the U.S. to face espionage charges will take longer than expected.

District Judge Vanessa Baraitser agreed on Thursday to add a three-week session in May in addition to the five-day hearing already set for Feb. 24.

The judge said she was “unlikely to look favorably” on any further requests for delays in the long-awaited confrontation between Assange and U.S. officials.

Assange is being held at Belmarsh Prison in east London while he waits for the hearing. The U.S. has charged him with espionage related to WikiLeaks’ hacking of hundreds of thousands of confidential government documents.

Assange, 48, did not attend the court session in person but briefly confirmed his name and date of birth via videolink.

He claims he is a journalist whose publishing activities have First Amendment protection.

Both sides agreed the extra session in May was necessary because of the many legal issues.

Clair Dobbin, representing the U.S. government, said she needed more time to respond to evidence recently submitted by the WikiLeaks team.

Edward Fitzgerald, Assange’s lawyer, said his team has had trouble getting adequate access to Assange at the high security prison.

“We simply cannot get in as we require to see Mr. Assange and to take his instruction,” he said.

Assange’s supporters gathered inside and outside Westminster Magistrates Court to lobby for his release. His cause has been embraced by many press freedom groups.

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