With WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange facing a full US extradition hearing, reporter Patrick Henningsen managed to get a glimpse at the wanted journalist during a court appearance in London.
After a preliminary hearing at London’s Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London, Assange’s full hearing will likely take place in February of next year. Assange appeared in court briefly via video link from Belmarsh Prison, where he is currently serving a 12-month sentence for skipping bail in 2012.
Prior to Friday’s appearance, concerns had been raised over Assange’s ill health after the 47-year-old was too ill to attend the last hearing regarding the US extradition request in May.
“I would say his health looks physically vastly improved,” Henningsen told RT. “He has gained some weight back, his hair was combed well, he has a beard.
“Mentally, he’s clearly been under some duress… but that’s because he’s trying to process everything that was coming through this small video pipeline.”
The US Justice Department has filed 18 charges against Assange, including a charge of conspiracy for publishing classified documents leaked by US Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning in 2010. If convicted, Assange faces up to 175 years behind bars.
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“There’s certainly a strong argument to be made [that he won’t face a fair trial],” Henningsen continued, adding that the US’ position that the Manning leaks endangered the lives of American troops and agents remains a hypothetical one unsupported by factual evidence. No hard proof of this harm was produced during the trial of Manning in 2013, and none has been presented since.
“All they brought forward was hypotheticals,” he said. “[The US’ case is] relying heavily on reframing and redefining Julian Assange as a spy and a cyber terrorist and not a journalist, and WikiLeaks as a hostile foreign intelligence agency and not a media outlet.”
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