WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange won’t face an extradition hearing until February 2020, a U.K. judge ruled Friday.
Assange, 47, was arrested after the U.S. Department of Justice charged him with cracking a password in the American defense network, which he denies. Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot ordered a 5-day extradition hearing for Assange beginning Feb. 25, 2020, according to The Guardian. Up until his arrest, Assange had been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for seven years.
“This is related to one of the largest compromises of confidential information in the history of the United States,” said Ben Brandon, who represented the U.S. in the Friday hearing. (RELATED: Assange Indicted Under Espionage Act)
The charges against Assange in the U.S. stem from his role in helping Chelsea Manning, then Bradley Manning, steal tens of thousands of diplomatic cables in 2010. The U.S. could charge him for conspiracy to commit computer hacking on a classified computer.
The DOJ is alleging that “Assange engaged in a conspiracy with Chelsea Manning, a former intelligence analyst in the U.S. Army, to assist Manning in cracking a password stored on U.S. Department of Defense computers connected to the Secret Internet Protocol Network (SIPRNet), a U.S. government network used for classified documents and communications.” (RELATED: What You Need To Know About Julian Assange–Who Wants A Piece Of Him And Why)
Assange has defended himself, saying he had no part in cracking the U.S. defense network and that his rights as a journalist should protect him from the effects of what WikiLeaks published.
His lawyer, Mark Summers, called the case “an outrageous and full-frontal assault on journalistic rights.”
“Let’s be clear. This disclosure is not just an attack on America — it’s an attack on the international community,” former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in 2010. “There is nothing laudable about endangering innocent people, and there is nothing brave about sabotaging the peaceful relations between nations.”