…..during British court appearance via video link
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told a British court Thursday he won’t agree to be extradited to the U.S. where he’s facing charges of conspiracy to hack a Pentagon computer.
Assange addressed the court via video link from a prison in London, saying that he won’t “surrender myself for extradition for doing journalism that has won many awards and protected many people.”
Judge Michael Snow said it will take “many months” before a full hearing was held on the substance of the U.S. extradition case. A procedural hearing is scheduled for May 30, with a substantive hearing to follow on June 12.
The hearing on Thursday came just a day after the WikiLeaks founder was sentenced to 50 weeks in prison in the U.K. for jumping bail in 2012 and hiding in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in an effort to avoid extradition to Sweden where he was wanted for questioning over rape and sexual assault allegations.
In a letter read to the court, Assange said he was “struggling with difficult circumstances” and apologized to those who “consider I’ve disrespected them.”
He added: “I did what I thought at the time was the best or perhaps the only thing that I could have done.”
Assange previously he feared the extradition to the U.S. over charges related to WikiLeaks’ publication of classified U.S. military documents.
U.S. authorities claim Assange worked in tandem with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to break a classified government computer.
Manning, who served several years in prison for leaking to WikiLeaks, was jailed in March after she refused to testify to a grand jury regarding WikiLeaks.
Ben Brandon, a lawyer representing the U.S. government, said in court today that American investigators had acquired details of communications between Manning and Assange in 2010. The two had allegedly “engaged in real time discussions regarding Chelsea Manning’s dissemination of confidential records to Mr. Assange.”
He added that the records downloaded from a classified computer included 90,000 activity reports from the war in Afghanistan, 400,000 Iraq war-related reports, 800 Guantanamo Bay detainee assessments and 250,000 State Department cables.
Assange is facing a maximum five-year prison sentence if he’s convicted in the U.S., but he’s concerned that if he’s extradited, the U.S. government could add additional charges and thus increasing his prison time.