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  • WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is seen as he leaves a police station in London, Britain April 11, 2019.

    WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is seen as he leaves a police station in London, Britain April 11, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 14 June 2019

U.S. officials have made clear their intention to prosecute Assange under the Espionage Act, blaming him for directing WikiLeaks’ publication of a huge trove of secret documents that disclosed the names of people who provided confidential information to American and coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The co-founder of Wikileaks Julian Assange will face a new, full U.S. extradition hearing in February 2020, a court at Westminster magistrates, in London, has heard. The February 2020 hearing will reportedly last for five days, they said.

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The hearing date was set after British Home Secretary Sajid Javid revealed on Thursday that he had signed and certified the U.S. extradition order papers.

The U.S. Justice Department filed 18 charges against Assange, including one count of conspriring with Chelsea Manning to gain access to the U.S. Pentagon network.

The 47-year-old Assange is currently in Belmarsh Prison on the outskirts of London serving a 50-week sentence for jumping bail in Britain.

He was too ill to appear at a recent hearing but is expected Friday to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court via video link.

U.S prosecutors initially charged Assange with a single count of computer intrusion, but last month added 17 new counts, including controversial charges under the Espionage Act for encouraging, receiving and publishing national defense information in concert with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.

Such a charge under the Espionage Act has never been successfully prosecuted, according to CNN legal analyst Steve Vladeck.

Assange's initial indictment sparked a debate over the First Amendment and whether his alleged role in procuring secret US material constituted protected journalistic activity.

Assange lived inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London for seven years until April when the country revoked his protection and he was arrested.

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