- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 19, 2019

Attorneys for Julian Assange will fight a U.S. extradition request by reasoning it should be blocked under a bilateral treaty, a lawyer for the WikiLeaks publisher said Thursday.

Defense lawyer Edward Fitzgerald said during a hearing held at London’s Westminster Magistrates’ Court that Mr. Assange’s legal team will argue that a treaty in place between the U.K. and U.S. prohibits individuals from being extradited from one nation to the other for political offenses, multiple British media outlets reported.

“We say that there is in the treaty a ban on being extradited for a political offense and these offenses as framed and in substance are political offenses,” Mr. Fitzgerald told the court, according to Reuters.

A treaty entered into force between the U.S. and U.K. governments in 2007 states that extradition “shall not be granted if the offense for which extradition is requested is a political offense.”

Mr. Assange, an Australian, has been jailed in London since April in connection with criminal charges brought by federal prosecutors in the U.S. related to his WikiLeaks website.

He is accused of violating the U.S. Espionage Act and a federal anti-hacking statute by soliciting and publishing classified material, including hundreds of thousands of Department of State diplomatic cables and Department of Defense documents detailing American military activity in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other documents, and he faces the possibility of spending the rest of his life imprisoned if sent to the U.S. and found guilty.

Extradition proceedings are currently scheduled to start in London on Feb. 24.

Mr. Fitzgerald told the court Thursday that defense lawyers intend to call up to 21 witnesses to testify when the proceedings take place, Reuters and The Daily Mail both reported.

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