What's at stake in Julian Assange's extradition fight?

Prosecutors say he committed espionage. Defenders say the case threatens press freedom.

Supporters of Julian Assange at High Court on February 20, 2024 in London, England.
Supporters of Julian Assange at High Court on February 20, 2024 in London, England
(Image credit: Guy Smallman / Getty Images)

After more than a decade in detention and exile, Julian Assange may be on the verge of prosecution for spilling American secrets.

The WikiLeaks founder, imprisoned in the U.K. since 2019, this week faced an extradition hearing in a British court, The Associated Press said. U.S. lawyers told a judge that Assange's "bid to solicit, steal and indiscriminately publish classified U.S. government documents" put lives at risk. Assange, they said, went far beyond the bounds of journalism by encouraging leaker Chelsea Manning to steal the secret files that were published in 2010. "The allegations are that he sought to encourage theft and hacking that would benefit WikiLeaks," said one prosecutor.

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