WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was facing a court hearing Thursday over a U.S. request to extradite him for allegedly conspiring to hack a Pentagon computer.
Assange, who is fighting attempts to send him to the United States, is expected to appear by video link from prison for the hearing at London’s Westminster Magistrates’ Court.
A few dozen supporters holding signs reading “Free Assange” and “No extradition” gathered outside the courthouse before the hearing. It’s an early stage in what is likely to be a months- or years-long extradition process.
The 47-year-old Australian was sentenced Wednesday to 50 weeks in prison for jumping bail in 2012 and holing up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. At the time, he was facing extradition to Sweden for questioning over rape and sexual assault allegations made by two women.
Assange says he feared being sent to the U.S. to face charges related to WikiLeaks’ publication of classified U.S. military documents.
Assange was arrested last month after his relationship with his embassy hosts went sour and Ecuador revoked his political asylum.
Lawyers say Assange will fight extradition to the U.S., where authorities have charged him with conspiring to break into a Pentagon computer system.
He is accused of scheming with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to break a password for a classified government computer.
Manning served several years in prison for leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks. She was jailed again in March after refusing to testify to a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks
WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson said Wednesday that the extradition battle was “a question of life and death” for Assange.