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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Friday faces his first British court hearing since the US submitted a formal extradition request on espionage charges, which were later signed by the home secretary, Sajid Javid.
If the extradition request is fulfilled, the whistleblower could face eighteen counts of espionage charges from the US Department of Justice (US DoJ) in a Virginia district court over his 2010 leak of hundreds of thousands of classified documents on US military war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as human rights abuses in Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp in Cuba, bearing a prison term of up to 175 years.
The 47-year-old Australian was too ill to appear last month at a hearing at Westminster magistrates’ court in relation to the US request, according to the Guardian. The hearing has been rescheduled for Friday, and depending on Assange’s condition, may take place at Belmarsh prison where he is being held. Assange is now serving a 50-week sentence in Britain for skipping bail after he spent seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in order to flee what he said was a politically motivated case against him.
Swedish prosecutors dropped their rape investigation in 2017 but reopened it after Ecuador rescinded its offer of asylum to Assange in April this year and allowed British police to arrest him. Assange was carried out by British policemen after Ecuador had denied him asylum on the territory of its embassy.
He was recently transferred to Belmarsh prison’s hospital wing after losing "dangerous amounts of weight behind bars,” with one source in the prison even claiming that "his state of mind is not great, either". His father, who had reportedly visited Assange on Wednesday, said his son has undergone "considerable change" since the two met last Christmas, including losing about 20 pounds, but remains "clearly optimistic" that he will not be extradited.
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