(Bloomberg) -- WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told a London court that his life was “effectively at stake” as he battled being sent to the U.S. to face charges that he endangered national security.
Appearing via videolink from the high-security Belmarsh prison, Assange said observers “should not fall into believing that WikiLeaks is anything but a publisher.” He spoke after a judge at Westminster Magistrates Court ordered that his full five-day hearing begin on Feb. 25.
The court appearance comes after Home Secretary Sajid Javid signed an order that lets an American bid to extradite Assange formally proceed. Assange, in a gray shirt and wearing glasses, spoke at the end of the hearing to ask for details of the American indictment, which he’s yet to see.
The U.S. has charged Assange with 18 counts related to endangering national security by conspiring to obtain and disclose classified information. He’s accused of working with former U.S. Army intelligence officer Chelsea Manning to get classified documents from databases containing about 90,000 Afghanistan war-related activity reports, 400,000 Iraq war-related reports and 250,000 State Department cables.
The charges relate to one of the largest leaks of classified information in the history of the U.S., Ben Brandon, a lawyer for the American government, said.
Assange was arrested in April at the Ecuadorian embassy after taking refuge there in 2012. He is currently serving a 50-week sentence at Belmarsh for skipping bail and has been receiving medical treatment.
“This case is an outrageous and full-frontal assault on journalistic rights and free speech,” Assange’s lawyer Mark Summers said.
Swedish prosecutors have separately reopened an investigation into rape allegations against Assange, which he denies.
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