British judge rejects Julian Assange’s bid to delay hearing

On 8th September 2020, SBS News reports

A request by lawyers for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to delay his US extradition hearing has been rejected by a UK District Judge.

A British judge has rejected a request by lawyers for Julian Assange to delay his extradition hearing until next year to give his lawyers more time to respond to US allegations that he conspired with hackers to obtain classified information.

The adjournment request on Monday came on the first day of a London court hearing where Mr Assange is fighting US prosecutors’ attempt to send him to the United States to stand trial on spying charges.

Mr Assange’s lawyers say the prosecution is a politically motivated abuse of power that will stifle press freedom and put journalists around the world at risk.

The US Justice Department expanded its case against Mr Assange in a new indictment announced in June, though it did not introduce new charges.

But Mr Assange’s lawyer Mark Summers said it was “an impossible task” for the legal team to deal with the new allegations in time for Monday’s court hearing, especially since they had only “limited access” to the imprisoned WikiLeaks founder.

He said District Judge Vanessa Baraitser should excise the new US claims, which he said were sprung on the defence “out of the blue”.

The judge said no, saying she had offered the defence the chance in August to postpone the hearing, and “they declined to do so”.

The defence then asked for the case to be adjourned until January.

Mr Assange, who has spent 16 months in a British prison, sat in the dock at the Old Bailey criminal court and formally refused the US extradition demand.

Mr Assange, who lawyers say has suffered physical and mental ill-health because of his ordeal, spoke clearly to confirm his name and date of birth.

Judge Baraitser refused, saying Mr Assange’s lawyers had had “ample time” before Monday to make the request.

The new June indictment accuses Mr Assange of recruiting hackers at conferences in Europe and Asia, and of conspiring with members of hacking groups known as LulzSec and Anonymous.

US prosecutors say the evidence underscores Mr Assange’s efforts to procure and release classified information, allegations that form the basis of criminal charges he already faces.

Mr Summers accused US prosecutors of filing the new indictment “in desperation” because “they knew that they would lose” with their existing case.

Mr Assange’s lawyers argue that he is a journalist entitled to First Amendment protection and say the leaked documents exposed US military wrongdoing.

Read whole article in SBS News