London court resumes Assange hearing amid worldwide protests against his extradition to USBritish fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood addresses supporters of Julian Assange protesting outside the Old Bailey 07 September, 2020 in London, England. © Getty Images / Barcroft Media


As the Julian Assange hearing resumed, the WikiLeaks founder formally declined to be extradited to face a superseding indictment issued by the US in June. Protesters and lawyers say the prosecution will stifle press freedom.

Assange’s lawyers described the prosecution as a politically motivated abuse of power that will stifle press freedom and put journalists around the world at risk. The journalist is now expected to appear each day of the hearing, which is likely to last four weeks.

On the first day, he officially stated that he does not consent to be extradited.

Several dozen supporters, including his father and partner, as well as fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, gathered outside the courthouse.

The demonstrators chanted, banged drums, and called the prosecution a threat to press freedom. “Assange is the trigger, he is shining the light on all the corruption in the world,”Westwood said. Speaking outside the Old Bailey, the WikiLeaks founder’s father, John Shipton, said the extradition hearing was an “abuse trial.”

As the hearing resumed, ‘FreeAssange actions’ were scheduled to be held in London, Adelaide, Berlin, Brussels, New York, Paris, Rome, San Francisco, Washington DC, and other cities.

New Zealand kicked off global protests to mark the commencement of the extradition case against Assange on Monday. Free Assange NZ has written an open letter to New Zealand’s MPs and government saying that ‘a call for Assange’s freedom’ would be a major achievement as New Zealand is a partner within the Anglo-American alliance.

The hearing was originally planned for May 18, but was rescheduled because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The court ruled out his release on bail, despite the high risks of contracting the coronavirus at UK’s Belmarsh high security prison.

During Monday’s session, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser rejected a request by lawyers for Assange to delay his extradition hearing until next year. The lawyers wanted more time to respond to US allegations that he conspired with hackers to obtain classified information.

Tweeting in response to the court developments, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden called the case a Kafkaesque “show trial,” adding that the “judge permits the charges to be changed so frequently the defense doesn’t even know what they are.”

The US authorities accuse Australian-born Assange of conspiring to hack government computers and of violating an espionage law after the release of confidential cables by WikiLeaks in 2010-2011.

In June 2012, facing imminent extradition, Assange sought refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy. He was dragged out of the embassy in April 2019 after Ecuador revoked his asylum. The WikiLeaks founder remains jailed pending the outcome of the US extradition request.

If convicted on all charges, Assange faces a sentence of up to 175 years behind bars.