The creator of Wikileaks continues to divide the waters: a champion of transparency for some, an irresponsible narcissist for others.
A London court resumed the trial on Monday to decide whether WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should be extradited to the United States, which wants to try him for espionage in a case that his defenders denounce as a key to press freedom.
Dressed in a dark suit and maroon tie, Assange confirmed his identity at the start of the session and formally stated that rejected extradition. It was her first public appearance since February, when a first week of hearings took place before the case was postponed.
The Australian, 49, was due to return to court in April but the process was seen delayed by pandemic of coronavirus that, according to his lawyers, prevented them from having access to him in jail to prepare the case.
The process is expected to take three to four weeks, and is marked by protests.
Several dozen people, including British designer Vivienne Westwood, marched outside the courthouse Monday morning with banners reading “Imprison War Criminals, Free Julian Assange!”
“The future of journalism is at stake“WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief Kristinn Hrafnsson said during the protest.
“Allowing the extradition of Julian Assange on this basis would have a chilling effect on freedom of the press and, ultimately, could hamper the work of the press as a provider of information and public guardian in democratic societies “, warned the Council of Europe.
But the United States defends that Assange is not a journalist but a “hacker” and he claims that he helped intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal those secret documents before exposing the material to the eyes of the world.
He also accuses him of having conspired with members of the hacker groups LulzSec and Anonymous and of having had “unauthorized access to a government computer system of a NATO country.”
Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, is a controversial figure who polarizes opinions: a tireless defender of transparency for some, for others he is a dangerous disseminator of secrets, which earned him a claim by Washington to try him for espionage.
The 49-year-old Australian, with pale skin, gray hair and a sober expression, who sometimes wields a sarcastic half smile, spent more than eight years deprived of liberty.
First, he was a refugee since June 2012 in the Ecuadorian embassy in London so as not to be extradited to Sweden due to rape accusations that he denounced as a trap to hand him over to the United States.
Then, since his spectacular arrest by British police in April 2019 when Ecuadorian President Lenín Moreno withdrew the protection offered by his predecessor Rafael Correa, held in a high-security prison near London.
With serious health problems according to his lawyers, coordinated internationally by former Spanish judge Baltasar GarzónFrom there, he has fought against the extradition process initiated by the United States, which wants him to be tried for espionage, an accusation that could cost him a 175-year prison sentence.
Assange and WikiLeaks became famous in 2010 with the publication of hundreds of thousands of secret american documents that exposed their practices in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Pacifists and transparency advocates praised him for revealing civilian deaths, acts of torture and clandestine military operations.