Julian Assange Refuses to Voluntarily Surrender to U.S. Extradition 'for Doing Journalism That Has Won Many, Many Awards'

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange refused to voluntarily surrender to extradition to the U.S., where he would be forced to face charges over one of the biggest compromises of classified information, during a Thursday court appearance via video link from a British prison.

Asked at a hearing at Westminster Magistrates' Court whether he would agree to be extradited to the U.S., Assange refused, according to Reuters.

Citing a reporter for The Guardian, CBS reported that Assange said, "I do not wish to surrender myself for extradition for doing journalism that has won many, many awards and protected many people."

Assange's case was adjourned until May 30 for a procedural hearing, with a hearing planned for June 12, Reuters reported. The full extradition hearing is expected to be months away.

As Assange's case was adjourned, protesters rallied outside the London court in support of Assange. Photos showed demonstrators carrying signs reading "Free Assange" and "No U.S. extradition."

The Metropolitan Police Service arrested Assange, 47, last month at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he took refuge for nearly seven years. It was later confirmed that the arrest had come in response to a U.S. extradition request, with Assange facing a charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, which carries a maximum penalty of five years.

On Wednesday, Assange was sentenced to serve 50 weeks in prison by a British court for breaching bail in 2012 while taking refuge in Ecuador's London embassy. In a statement posted to Twitter, WikiLeaks condemned the sentence, saying it was as "shocking as it is vindictive."

"We have grave concerns as to whether he will receive a fair extradition hearing in the UK," WikiLeaks said.

Assange arrived at the Ecuadorian Embassy nearly seven years ago to avoid extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations. The case was dropped in 2017, with the statute of limitations running out on most of the accusations. Assange remained at the embassy until April to avoid being extradited to the U.S. to face prosecution over WikiLeaks' release in 2010 of sensitive government data from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

The Metropolitan Police Service said at the time of the arrest that its officers had been invited into the embassy to arrest Assange after Ecuador's government withdrew Assange's diplomatic asylum status after accusing him of repeated violations of international conventions on such asylum.

Assange's attorney has denied allegations made by Ecuador's leadership, which include claims that he was an ill-mannered houseguest who, at one point, smeared his feces over the London embassy's walls. The lawyer called the claims "outrageous."

Australian human rights lawyer Jennifer Robinson maintained last month that the claims had been fabricated to justify the decision to allow British authorities to arrest Assange.

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gestures from the window of a prison van as he is driven into Southwark Crown Court in London on May 1 before being sentenced to 50 weeks in prison for breaching his bail conditions in 2012. Assange has refused to be voluntarily extradited to the U.S. to face a charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty
Julian Assange Refuses to Voluntarily Surrender to U.S. Extradition 'for Doing Journalism That Has Won Many, Many Awards' | World