WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has appeared in person in the Westminster Magistrates' Court in London, where the hearing on his extradition to the United States has begun.
The hearing was delayed for more than an hour, which, according to Assange's lawyer, Gareth Peirce, was due to the fact that there were some complications at Belmarsh prison, where the WikiLeaks founder is being held. She also said that the defence still had limited opportunities to communicate with and transfer case materials to her client because of prison rules.
In December, the court ruled that Assange's extradition case would consist of three separate stages, with hearings scheduled throughout January and February.
Assange, who was initially accused of sexual harassment and rape in Sweden in 2010, was in hiding at the Ecuadorian embassy in London from 2012 to 2019. In April, UK police entered the embassy to arrest the WikiLeaks founder, and he was eventually sentenced to 50 weeks in prison for breaching bail conditions.
In May, the US Department of Justice indicted Assange on 17 additional charges under the Espionage Age and demanded his extradition. If convicted of these charges, the WikiLeaks founder faces up to 175 years in prison. The UK home secretary at the time, Sajid Javid, approved the extradition request, stating that he did not believe Assange would face death or torture if extradited.