LONDON – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will likely spend the rest of 2020 inside a British prison cell before finding out whether he can be sent to the United States to face espionage charges, the judge in his extradition hearing said Thursday.
After hearing nearly four weeks of evidence at London's Old Bailey courthouse, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser said she would deliver her decision on whether to grant a U.S. extradition request for Assange at 10 a.m. on Jan. 4. Assange is fighting extradition.
The judge's ruling won’t necessarily end the proceedings. Whichever side loses is expected to appeal. There’s also the possibility of a change in U.S. policy should Joe Biden defeat President Donald Trump in the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election.
“Unless any further application for bail is made, and between now and the 4th of January, you will remain in custody for the same reasons as have been given to you before,” Baraitser told Assange, who was sitting behind a security screen at the back of the hearing courtroom.
The judge previously denied Assange bail over fears he is a flight risk. Assange jumped bail in 2012 when he sought asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he stayed for seven years before being evicted and arrested. He has been in custody at Belmarsh prison in London since April 2019 and is expected to appear in court via video link every 28 days between now and the Jan. 4 ruling.
U.S. prosecutors have indicted the 49-year-old Assange on 17 espionage charges and one charge of computer misuse over WikiLeaks’ publication of secret American military documents a decade ago largely relating to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Following the adjournment on Thursday, Stella Moris, Assange's fiancée and the mother of his two young children, said, “Julian and I would like to thank everyone for the kindness that has been shown over the past few weeks.”
“It’s a fight for Julian’s life, a fight for press freedom and a fight for the truth,” Moris said outside the court.