A London court on Monday will begin hearing the case for the extradition of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to the USA, a day after hundreds of protesters marched through the British capital demanding his release.
The 48-year-old Australian is accused of publishing secret documents and violating anti-espionage law in the US, and faces up to 175 years in prison if convicted.
Washington has sought his extradition for years. Assange has fought being transferred to the US since he was arrested in April last year.
A decision by the London court is not expected before May 18.
‘Journalism is not a crime’
In 2010, Wikileaks had published hundreds of thousands of secret papers on the internet, mainly pertaining to the Iraq war.
The papers contained sensitive information about US operations in the country, including the killing of civilians and the mistreatment of prisoners.
Assange, his lawyers, and supporters argue that the whistleblower activist would not receive a fair trial in the US.
The Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner Dunja Mijatovic has also urged Britain not to hand him over, saying that press freedom and the rights of whistleblowers are at stake.
“The broad and vague nature of the allegations…are troubling as many of them concern activities at the core of investigative journalism in Europe and beyond,” Mijatovic said.
Hundreds of people including Roger Waters, the co-founder of the rock band Pink Floyd, marched through London on Saturday in a show of support for Assange. A number of prominent German politicians and intellectuals also signed an open letterappealing for his release earlier this month.
Protesters carried signs that said, “Free Julian Assange,” and “Journalism is not a crime.”
Assange’s father John Shipton addressed the crowd. He said the long confinement had damaged his son’s health and that extraditing him the US would be the same as a death sentence.
kp/bk (AFP, dpa)
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