Buildings are reflected in the window as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is taken from court. Picture: AP
Buildings are reflected in the window as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is taken from court. Picture: AP

Assange: ‘I won’t surrender for doing journalism’

THE Australian founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, tonight declared he will fight extradition to the United States as details of charges against him were heard in a London court.

A lawyer for the US government said the extradition was sought over allegations Assange allegedly helped former American soldier Chelsea Manning to hack into a government computer system.

But Assange remained defiant, telling Westminster Magistrates Court tonight that he would fight any efforts to extradite him.

"I do not wish to surrender myself for extradition for doing journalism which has won many many awards and protected many many people," he said.

Judge Michael Snow replied: "I take that as a no then."

Ben Brandon, for the United States government said the maximum sentence for the hacking charge was five years.

Queensland-born Assange appeared via video link from Belmarsh high security prison, south East London, where he has begun a 50-week sentence for breaching bail in 2012.

He had sought political asylum in the Ecuadorean Embassy in the British capital.

At the time, he was facing extradition to Sweden for questioning over alleged sex crimes.

British activist Lauri Love protests at the entrance of Westminster Magistrates Court in London. Picture: AP
British activist Lauri Love protests at the entrance of Westminster Magistrates Court in London. Picture: AP

Assange was arrested last month after Ecuadorean officials revoked his asylum and invited British police inside the embassy.

Tonight the court heard the US Government, which accuses him of conspiring to hack a Pentagon computer, had records of discussions between Assange, 47 and Manning, 31.

That hack led to the release of tens of thousands of US documents in 2010, making WikiLeaks a household name, the US government claimed.

Manning served almost seven years in prison for leaking one of the largest troves of classified documents in the country's history to WikiLeaks.

She was jailed again in March after refusing to testify to a US grand jury investigating the organisation.

Kristinn Hrafnnson, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief, addresses the media at the entrance to Westminster Magistrates Court in London. Picture: AP
Kristinn Hrafnnson, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief, addresses the media at the entrance to Westminster Magistrates Court in London. Picture: AP

Assange was remanded in custody ahead of another series of hearings slated for the coming months, during which more allegations are expected to be aired.

Outside courtroom 3, supporters clashed with security guards after they were locked out.

They began filming the incident, which was a breach of court rules.

The computer hacking charge carries a maximum five-year sentence in the United States, but Assange's supporters fear there would be more charges if they were able to extradite him.

Larger numbers of supporters turned out compared with his appearance at Southwark Crown Court yesterday.

Assange has been wanted by Swedish authorities over a sexual assault claim, which he denied.

In sentencing Assange yesterday, Judge Deborah Taylor said his seven years hiding inside the Ecuadorean embassy may have hampered the Swedish investigation.

Assange has previously said that he fears the death penalty, torture or being sent to Guantánamo Bay.