Julian Assange appeared today with his legal team at a case management hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court. Lawyers for Mr Assange were seeking a postponement of his extradition hearing in order to gather and submit further evidence. Mark Summers QC, Mr Assange’s barrister, told the court the defence needed three more months to gather evidence and prepare for the hearing. The application was strongly opposed by James Lewis QC, representing the UK government.
District Judge Baraister refused the request and the extradition hearing will go ahead as scheduled on 25 February 2020.
Mr Assange is facing charges under the US Espionage Act but claims the charges against him are politically motivated. Mr Assange is the first journalist to be charged under the Act for the publishing of information that is true. The charges relate to the soliciting and publishing of hundreds of thousands of US government documents classified up to the level of Secret.
Mr Summers QC claimed that the US Government had been spying on Mr Assange, citing an ongoing Spanish case in which a security company allegedly working in conjunction with the US is accused of gaining access to Mr Assange’s communications with his legal team from within the Ecuadoran Embassy. He went on to say that “this is an avowed war on whistleblowers to include investigative journalists and publishers” and that there was a link between the “reinvigoration of the investigation and Donald Trump’s presidency.” Mr Assange could face a 175-year sentence if convicted.
Mr Assange complained of the conditions in which he is being held in Belmarsh Prison, where he was remanded in custody last month following the completion of a 50-week sentence for breach of bail.
The next case management hearing in respect of this matter will be on 19 December.