- The Washington Times - Friday, October 11, 2019

A British judge ruled Friday that WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange is to remain behind bars pending the outcome of extradition proceedings currently scheduled for February 2020.

Assange appeared in London’s Westminster Magistrates’ Court by video link from Belmarsh Prison and was remanded to custody following a brief hearing, according to news outlets in attendance.

“I very much hope we can make some progress on this case,” Judge Tam Ikram told Assange near the end of the hearing, Reuters reported.

Assange, an Australian native, was free on bail in 2012 when he entered the Ecuadorian Embassy in London seeking asylum instead of surrendering to Swedish authorities investigating allegations of rape. He said at the time that he feared his surrender would result in being extradited to the U.S., where he was likely to face criminal charges related to releasing classified military and diplomatic material through his WikiLeaks website, and he remained protected on the property for nearly seven years before being ejected in April.

Sweden later dropped its investigation into Assange, 48, but a British judge ruled following his eviction from the embassy that he had breached bail by entering the building and ordered him to serve a 50-week prison sentence.

Federal prosecutors in the U.S. subsequently unsealed criminal indictments charging Assange with multiple felonies related to WikiLeaks and are seeking his extradition. He risks decades behind bars if convicted.

Ruling last month from the same court in London, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser said Assange should remain in custody after his sentence for jumping bail expires because he is likely to abscond if released.

Judge Ikram said Friday that Assange will remain in custody “for the same reasons as before,” The Canberra Times reported following the hearing.

Assange is scheduled to be back in court on Oct. 21. Extradition proceedings are currently slated to start Feb. 25.

The Department of Justice has charged Assange with 18 criminal counts, nearly all violations of the U.S. Espionage Act, over his solicitation and publication of classified U.S. documents. He has argued he acted as a journalist and is fighting extradition.

On Thursday, meanwhile, an imprisoned computer hacker connected to WikiLeaks, Jeremy Hammond, was found in contempt of court for refusing to answer questions in front of a federal grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, the hub of the Justice Department’s criminal probe into WikiLeaks.

Hammond, 34, pleaded guilty in 2013 in connection with hacking a private intelligence company, Strategic Forecasting, also known as Stratfor, and obtaining internal data ultimately provided to WikiLeaks for publication.

Chelsea Manning, a former Army analyst who served nearly seven years in prison for her role in providing different documents to WikiLeaks, has similarly refused to cooperate with the same grand jury in Alexandria and is currently in jail for contempt of court.

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