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Assange's fate hangs in balance as UK court considers extradition bid

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Assange's fate hangs in balance as UK court considers extradition bid

Assange's fate hangs in balance as UK court considers extradition bid

A British court will begin hearings on Monday to decide whether Julian Assange should be extradited to the United States almost a decade after his WikiLeaks website enraged Washington by leaking secret U.S. documents.

Emer McCarthy reports.

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Assange's fate hangs in balance as UK court considers extradition bid

Julian Assange appeared before a London court on Monday (February 24) to fight an extradition request from the United States.

Almost a decade since the WikiLeaks website enraged Washington by leaking secret U.S. documents, he is wanted by the United States on 18 criminal counts of conspiring to hack government computers and violating an espionage law.

He could spend decades in prison if convicted.

One of the most polarizing figures of the last decade, Assange is both lauded and loathed.

A hero to admirers who say he has exposed abuses of power, Assange is seen by critics as a dangerous enemy of the state who has undermined Western security.

A lawyer for the United States told the court Monday that Assange put lives at risk with his crimes, and that journalism is no excuse for criminality.

Outside Woolwich Crown Court court, Assange's father, John Shipton, defended his son.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) FATHER OF WIKILEAKS FOUNDER JULIAN ASSANGE, JOHN SHIPTON, SAYING: "The oppression of journalism, the ceaseless malice directed against Julian Assange by the authorities, the 10 year long arbitrary detention of Julian as witnessed by the United Nations working group on arbitrary detention, the torture of Julian as witnessed by Nils Melzer, the United Nations rapporteur on torture - all of those reports are available.

That is what will happen to journalists, publishers and publications if this extradition, this political extradition of Julian Assange is successful." The hearing will not decide if Assange is guilty of any wrongdoing, but whether the extradition request meets the requirements set out under a 2003 UK-U.S. treaty, which critics say is stacked in favor of the United States.

His lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, says the case could lead to criminalizing activities crucial to investigative journalists.




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