WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange appeared in a London court on Monday to fight a US extradition request, at a high-stakes hearing that was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Assange, who has spent almost a year and a half in a British prison, sat in the dock at the Old Bailey criminal court and formally refused the U.S. demand he be extradited to face trial on espionage charges. He wore a dark suit, white shirt and maroon tie, with glasses perched atop his neatly trimmed white hair.
Several dozen supporters, including fashion designer Vivienne Westwood and Assange's partner, Stella Moris, gathered outside the courthouse, chanting, banging drums and calling his prosecution a threat to press freedom.
American prosecutors have indicted the 49-year-old Australian on 18 espionage and computer misuse charges over Wikileaks' publication of secret US military documents a decade ago. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison.
American authorities allege that Assange conspired with U.S. army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to hack into a Pentagon computer and release hundreds of thousands of secret diplomatic cables and military files on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In a new indictment filed in June, US prosecutors also say he conspired with members of hacking organizations and sought to recruit hackers to provide WikiLeaks with classified information. That indictment expanded the U.S. case against Assange but did not add any new charges.