WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange refused to surrender to a US extradition during a hearing in London on Thursday.
Assange appeared by video link at Westminster Magistrates Court in the first of several hearings during which he will fight extradition to the US over his alleged role in what the US Justice Department calls “one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States.”
“I do not wish to surrender myself for extradition for doing journalism that has won many, many awards and protected many people,” Assange told the judge. The court has now adjourned until May 30 when a procedural hearing will take place, with a more substantive hearing scheduled for June 12.
The extradition hearing took place just one day after Assange wasfor skipping bail in 2012. For almost seven years, 47-year-old Assange lived in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for fear he would be extradited first to Sweden on rape charges, and later to the US. London’s Metropolitan Police arrested Assange at the embassy last month when Ecuador withdrew Assange’s asylum.
Supporters of Assange protested outside the court with banners, while others attempted to get into the courtroom to support the WikiLeaks founder. Seating in the court was ticketed, but tickets were only allocated to a handful of members of the press. Meanwhile outside the courtroom, members of the public shouted “shame,” as well as “this is a disgrace,” and “this is illegal.”
Representatives from WikiLeaks and supporters had called in advance to check they would be allowed in, although after going through court security, the small courtroom chosen for the hearing didn’t have the capacity to accommodate them.
“They intentionally chose a small room to create this problem,” one supporter, Polona Florijancic, told CNET. “There are bigger rooms but they intentionally assigned it to this one.”
“This is a British court that has lied to the public and has denied them access to a case which is highly controversial, they knew was going to have a lot of public support and what’s more there’s no-one supporting the actual defendant,” added another supporter Karen Meidl. “We were told by the guards at the door that this order not to let anyone in other than the press came from the Ministry of Justice.”
A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice refused to comment on the accusation, although reiterated that the hearing had allocated seating.