FILE - In this Feb. 24, 2011, file photo, the founder of WikiLeaks Julian Assange speaks to the media after his extradition hearing at Belmarsh Magistrates’ Court in London. The arrest of Assange reignites a debate with no easy answer: Is the former computer hacker and founder of WikiLeaks a journalist or not? His lawyers are quick to characterize the case against him as a threat to all journalists. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File)

From embassy to prison: Assange settles in for legal battle

U.S. authorities announced charges against Assange of conspiring to break into a Pentagon computer

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has exchanged a small room at the Ecuadorian Embassy in central London for a cell at Belmarsh Prison, a grim institution in the southeast part of the city where he nevertheless has certain advantages he didn’t have when he was holed up, hiding from the law.

WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson said Friday that the ailing Assange should finally be able to receive medical care and will be able to meet with his lawyers more easily than he could in the embassy, where a feud with Ecuadorian authorities had led to a ban on most guests.

The 47-year-old Assange has extreme shoulder pain and tooth pain, Hrafnsson said.

For nearly seven years, Assange lived in the embassy without taking a step outside for fear of being arrested and sent to the U.S. to be prosecuted.

On Thursday, British authorities dragged the Australian native from the embassy, and U.S. authorities announced charges against him of conspiring to break into a Pentagon computer, setting up what is expected to be an epic legal and political battle over whether to extradite him to the U.S.

READ MORE: U.S. charges Wikileaks’ Assange with conspiring with Manning

His arrest became possible after Ecuador revoked his political asylum, complaining that he was an obnoxious houseguest who didn’t clean up after his cat and that WikiLeaks was plotting to blackmail the Latin American country’s president.

At the prison, where he is being held while the extradition process plays out, “there are medical facilities there, access to dental care I would assume, and a garden to go out into,” Hrafnsson said.

“But comparing one prison to another and giving a star rating is not really what’s on my mind,” he said. “What’s on my mind is there’s an innocent man in prison for doing his job as a journalist, and that’s an outage.”

He said Assange is in relatively good mental condition considering the stress of recent days.

The political debate over whether to extradite Assange is already taking shape, with Britain’s opposition Labour Party urging the government not to hand him over to the Americans. Party leader Jeremy Corbyn tweeted that the U.S. is prosecuting Assange because he exposed “evidence of atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Diane Abbott, Labour’s spokeswoman for domestic affairs, told Parliament: “It is this whistle-blowing into illegal wars, mass murder, murder of civilians and corruption on a grand scale that has put Julian Assange in the cross hairs of the U.S. administration.”

The politicization of the case reflects the clashing views of Assange as either a heroic whistleblower standing up to the mighty United States or a willing stooge who helped the Russians boost Donald Trump’s presidential campaign by publishing hacked emails that embarrassed his rival, Hillary Clinton.

Assange’s bid to fend off extradition could take years and involve several layers of appeal. He could also face a second extradition request if Sweden decides to pursue a rape case against him that was suspended in 2017, when he was in the embassy, beyond the reach of the law.

If found guilty of the U.S. charges, Assange could get five years in prison. His next court appearance is set for May 2 via a prison video link.

Extradition lawyer Ben Keith said the court will not assess the evidence against Assange to determine his guilt or innocence but will scrutinize whether the offence he is accused of in the U.S. would be a crime in Britain.

“The most likely outcome is that he will be extracted to the United States,” he said.

READ MORE: WikiLeaks chief could see charges, US court filing suggests

If Assange loses in extradition court, he could appeal several times and ultimately try to have his case heard at the European Court of Human Rights — unless Britain has left the European Union by that time.

Gregory Katz, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Summerland relaunches net metering program

Event open house will be held Aug. 27 from 3 to 6 p.m in Arena Banquet Room

Musaic Vocal Ensemble seeks additional voices

Summerland-based choir has performed for past 25 years

Concerts, workshops and more will be held in Summerland Aug 24 to Sept. 1

The Ryga Arts Festival, which runs Aug. 24 to Sept. 1 in… Continue reading

Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee supports added regulations, rezoning of Three Blind Mice

The recommendations will be presented to Penticton city council at an upcoming meeting

Warmer fall weather could extend wildfire season: AccuWeather

Above seasonal temperatures are expected throughout September, October and November

Grass fire breaks out on highway south of Vernon

Highway 97 traffic slowed as firefighters snuff grass fire

Wildfire sparks beside Highway 3 west of Keremeos

A wildfire on the side of Highway 3 just west of Keremeos… Continue reading

Conan turns to the Property Brothers for tips on buying Greenland

Jonathan Scott suggests removing glaciers and mountains to bring in ‘more natural light’

Jaws of Life used to rescue driver in North Okanagan crash

Single-vehicle MVI causes traffic delays on Highway 6

Forests minister visits B.C. town rocked by multiple mill shutdowns

A third of Mackenzie turns out for rally, not much to cheer about

B.C. sockeye returns drop as official calls 2019 ‘extremely challenging’

Federal government says officials are seeing the same thing off Alaska and Washington state

Expanded support to help B.C. youth from care attend university still falling short

Inadequate support, limited awareness and eligibility restrictions some of the existing challenges

Preliminary inquiry set for accused Penticton killer

John Brittain, 68, will be back in Penticton court from Jan. 27 to 31

Most Read