The London trial resumed Monday to determine whether WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should be extradited to the United States for trial for publishing secrets related to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The 49-year-old Australian who is currently being held in a maximum security prison, faces 18 charges from US prosecutors which could get him a prison sentence for up to 175 years.
The trial at Old Bailey’s Central Criminal Court should last three to four weeks. It was supposed to resume in April but has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
According to John Rees of the “Don’t Extradite Assange” campaign, any decision will certainly be challenged by the losing side, raising the prospect of more time behind bars for the former hacker.
Rees told AFP that Assange, who has become a figurehead of press freedom and investigative journalism a very had a very strong case but was concerned that the case was deeply politicized.
At an earlier hearing in February, the US President Donald Trump had promised to pardon the embattled hacker if he denied that Russia leaked an email from the campaign for Hillary Clinton, Trump’s opponent in the 2016 election.
Assange was charged under the US Espionage Act for releasing 500,000 classified files in 2010 detailing aspects of the US military campaign in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Washington claims Assange helped intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal documents before ruthlessly exposing secret sources around the world.
During the February hearing, Assange’s attorney Edward Fitzgerald said his client would not get a fair trial in the United States and can possibly commit suicide as result.
James Lewis, a US government official, said WikiLeaks was responsible for one of the greatest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States.
Lewis said reporting or journalism is not an excuse to commit a criminal act or a license to violate general criminal law as was done in Assange’s case.
Assange’s spouse and mother of two sons, Stella Morris who was born in South Africa, tried to release him in March, claiming he was in danger during the coronavirus lockdown in prison.
She said she feared he would commit suicide and that her sons, who were born during asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, would grow up fatherless.