Lawyers for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Monday warned of potentially devastating consequences for journalism around the world after a British judge denied Assange's request to delay his U.S. extradition hearing in February.
Assange struggled to say his own name and date of birth during the hearing at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London.
"I can't think properly," Assange told Judge Vanessa Baraitser.
The WikiLeaks publisher has been behind bars since he was dragged out of the Ecuadorian Embassy by U.K. police. Supporters say Assange's waning physical and mental condition is a consequence of his prolonged isolation, which the United Nations condemned as torture.
"It's a political attempt to signal to journalists the consequences of publishing information. It's legally unprecedented."
—Mark Summers, lawyer for Julian Assange
Assange's legal team requested a three-month delay to submit new evidence in the U.S. extradition case, including reports that a Spanish security firm spied on Assange on behalf of U.S. intelligence agencies. The allegation is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the Spanish National Court.
If Assange is sent back to the U.S., he could face up to 175 years in prison on more than a dozen charges related to WikiLeaks' publication of classified documents that exposed American war crimes and other state secrets.
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"I don't understand how this is equitable," Assange said Monday. "This superpower had 10 years to prepare for this case and I can't access my writings. It's very difficult where I am to do anything but these people have unlimited resources."
"They are saying journalists and whistleblowers are enemies of the people," Assange said of the Trump administration. "They have unfair advantages dealing with documents. They [know] the interior of my life with my psychologist. They steal my children's DNA. This is not equitable what is happening here."
It's so clear: people would be indignant about Trump administration's efforts to prosecute anyone else for *espionage* for publishing documents. But because Assange made enemies of both parties, few care that he's been just disappeared from the world & is being mentally tortured: https://t.co/9RtreiIhQq
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) October 21, 2019
Mark Summers, one of Assange's lawyers, called the U.S. extradition effort "a political attempt to signal to journalists the consequences of publishing information."
"It's legally unprecedented," said Summers. "This is part of an avowed war on whistleblowers to include investigative journalists and publishers."