Julian Assange faces extradition to US in 'dark day for journalism'

Julian Assange has been found guilty of breaching his bail at Westminster Magistrates’ Court and faces a jail sentence of up to 12 months when he is sentenced at Crown Court.

Julian Assange faces extradition to US in 'dark day for journalism'

Update: Speaking outside of court, Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson said: “Since 2010 we’ve warned that Julian Assange would face extradition to the US for his publishing activities. Unfortunately, today we have been proved right.”

She said they had received a provisional extradition request “alleging that he had conspired with Chelsea Manning over materials that were published by WikiLeaks in 2010”.

“This sets a dangerous precedent for all journalist and media organisations in Europe and around the world – this precedent means that any journalist can be extradited for prosecution in the United States for having published truthful information about the United States.”

She said Assange thanked his supporters and had said: “I told you so.”

WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson told reporters: “This is a dark day for journalism.

“We don’t want this to go forward. This must be averted. The UK Government needs to make assurances that a journalist will never be extradited to the US for publishing activity.

“This pertains to publishing activity nine years ago. Publishing of documents and of videos showing killing of civilians, exposure of war crimes. This is journalism.

“It’s called conspiracy. It’s conspiracy to commit journalism and we urge everyone to support Julian Assange in fighting this extradition.”

Update: Julian Assange has been found guilty of breaching his bail at Westminster Magistrates’ Court and faces a jail sentence of up to 12 months when he is sentenced at Crown Court.

Assange was remanded in custody and will be sentenced at Southwark Crown Court at a date to be set.

He will next appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on May 2 by prison video-link in relation to the extradition case.

Assange waved to the public gallery as he was taken down to the cells.

The judge described Assange’s defence as “laughable”.

He said: “Mr Assange’s behaviour is that of a narcissist who cannot get beyond his own selfish interests.

“He hasn’t come close to establishing ‘reasonable excuse’.”

The court heard police officers arrived at the Ecuadorian embassy in Knightsbridge at about 9.15am and were met by the ambassador.

“He indicated he was preparing to serve upon Mr Assange documentation revoking his asylum,” James Hines, representing the US government, said.

“Officers tried to introduce themselves to him in order to execute the arrest warrant before he barged past them, attempting to return to his private room.

“He was eventually arrested at 10.15am. He resisted that arrest, claiming ‘this is unlawful’ and he had to be restrained.

“Officers were struggling to handcuff him. They received assistance from other officers outside and he was handcuffed saying, ‘this is unlawful, I’m not leaving’.

“He was in fact lifted into the police van outside the embassy and taken to West End Central police station.”

Julian Assange arrives at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London today.
Julian Assange arrives at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London today.

Assange’s lawyer Liam Walker said the defence of reasonable excuse partly relied on his claims the Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot, who has previously dealt with the case, was biased against him.

He alleged her husband, Lord Arbuthnot, was directly impacted by the activities of WikiLeaks and Assange.

But the judge told Mr Walker it was “unacceptable” for him to air the claim in front of a “packed Press gallery”.

“This is grossly unfair and improper to do it just to ruin the reputation of a senior and able judge in front of the Press,” he said.

“He has chosen not to give evidence, he has chosen to make assertions about a senior judge not having the courage to place himself before the court for the purpose of cross-examination.

“Those assertions made through counsel are not evidence as a matter of law. I find they are not capable of amounting to a reasonable excuse.”

Barrister Jennifer Robinson and WikiLeaks’ editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson.
Barrister Jennifer Robinson and WikiLeaks’ editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson.

Speaking outside court, WikiLeaks’ editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson said: “Anyone who wants the press to be free should consider the implications of this case.

“If they will extradite a journalist to the US then no journalist will be safe. This must stop. This must end.”

Update: Julian Assange has pleaded not guilty to a charge at Westminster Magistrates’ Court that he failed to surrender to custody as required for an extradition order to Sweden.

Assange will not give evidence but his lawyer will argue he had a “reasonable excuse” for not surrendering to custody.

The court also heard the US has requested Assange’s extradition over an allegation that he conspired with intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to disclose documents.

Assange was told he is now accused under section six, not section seven, of the Bail Act and must re-enter his plea.

When asked if he still denied the charge, Assange replied: “I’m a bit curious as to why there’s been this sudden change”.

The judge explained: “The computer produced the wrong section.”

Video now available: Julian Assange arrives at court after almost seven-year stay in Ecuadorian embassy.

Update: Julian Assange appears at Westminster Magistrates’ Court following earlier arrest

Julian Assange has appeared in the dock at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in front of District Judge Michael Snow following his earlier arrest at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Julian Assange arrives at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London, after the WikiLeaks founder was arrested by officers from the Metropolitan Police and taken into custody following the Ecuadorian government's withdrawal of asylum. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Wire.
Julian Assange arrives at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London, after the WikiLeaks founder was arrested by officers from the Metropolitan Police and taken into custody following the Ecuadorian government's withdrawal of asylum. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Wire.

A packed public gallery and a full press bench watched as he walked into court wearing a black suit and polo shirt.

With grey hair tied into a ponytail and long beard, Assange saluted the public gallery before giving a thumbs up.

Members of the public were warned they would be in contempt of court if they recorded proceedings.

Assange sat calmly reading a Gore Vidal book as he waited for his lawyers to arrive in court.

Outside the court, five pro-Assange lawyers arrived carrying signs reading “Hands Off Assange” and “Free Press, Free Assange” ahead of Julian Assange’s court appearance.

- PA

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