WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had his second court date of the week this morning where he formally declined extradition to the U.S. to face charges brought by the Justice Department. The WikiLeaks founder was sentenced in a British court to nearly a year in prison yesterday for jumping bail in 2012.
Assange appeared before the UK court by video livestream and was asked today whether he would voluntarily consent to being sent to the United States.
“I do not wish to surrender myself for extradition for doing journalism that has won many, many awards and protected many people,” Assange said, according to Guardian reporter Ben Quinn who witnessed the hearing.
“I’ll take that as a decline,” the judge said.
According to Quinn, the U.S. hasn’t even submitted the full formal extradition request to the British court yet. The next court date for Assange is on May 30, but that will largely be a procedural hearing. Assange’s next hearing “of substance” will be on June 12.
The DOJ has charged Assange with a single count of “conspiracy to commit computer intrusion” for allegedly trying to help whistleblower Chelsea Manning to crack the password on a computer with classified material back in 2010. That indictment was initially secret until it was finally made public by U.S. prosecutors following Assange’s arrest on the morning of April 11. Assange was physically dragged from the Ecuadorian embassy in London after Ecuador revoked his asylum claim.
The WikiLeaks publisher had been living in the embassy for almost 7 years after he jumped bail in the summer of 2012 on sexual assault-related crimes in Sweden. Assange claimed asylum because he feared extradition to the U.S., where some experts believed American prosecutors might charge him under the Espionage Act which can carry the death penalty. Unlike advanced wealthy countries, the U.S. still has capital punishment.
Manning gave WikiLeaks hundreds of thousands of classified documents from the U.S. government’s Secret Internet Protocol Network as well as a 39-minute video shot in 2007 from the perspective of two U.S. Apache helicopters. The American troops slaughtered over a dozen people, including two Reuters journalists in Eastern Baghdad, Iraq. That video, titled “Collateral Murder” by WikiLeaks, was covered by countless other news publications. No one was charged for the attacks, unless you count Manning who simply allowed the public to see the video.
While Assange is effectively being charged in the U.S. for a computer hacking crime, the case has garnered plenty of attention for how governments prosecute journalists. The Obama DOJ declined to bring charges against WikiLeaks over concerns that it would overstep the First Amendment, but the Trump regime doesn’t seem too worried about the free speech issues of this case now that WikiLeaks is done helping Donald Trump become president.
Chelsea Manning, the whistleblower who has already spent years in prison, is still sitting in an Alexandria, Virginia jail over refusing to testify in the WikiLeaks case. Manning has been subjected to prolonged solitary confinement, a punishment widely regarded as torture by international human rights groups, and she could remain in jail for as long as 18 months if she doesn’t cooperate with the Trump regime in its case against WikiLeaks.