WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Thursday told a London court his work had protected “many people”.
Assange also refused to agree to be extradited to the U.S. to face trial for one of the largest compromises of classified information in history.
The U.S. had requested the extradition of Assange, who was dragged from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London on April 11, and charged him with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion which carries a maximum penalty of five years.
Asked at a preliminary hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court whether he agreed to be extradited to the U.S., he replied:“I do not wish to surrender for extradition.
“I’m a journalist winning many, many awards and protecting many people,’’
Assange said this while appearing via a video link from a British prison whether he agreed to be extradited to the U.S.
Assange made international headlines in early 2010 when WikiLeaks published a classified U.S. military video showing a 2007 attack by Apache helicopters in Baghdad that killed a dozen people, including two Reuters newsmen.
To some, Assange is a hero for exposing what supporters cast as abuse of power by modern states and for championing free speech.
To others, he is a dangerous rebel who has undermined U.S. security.
On Wednesday, he was sentenced to 50 weeks in prison by a British court for skipping bail after fleeing to Ecuador’s Embassy in London, where he remained for seven years until police dragged him out in April.
Assange had sought refuge in the embassy in June 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden to face an allegation of rape, which he denied.
He said that he feared he would be sent to the U.S. to face action over the WikiLeaks’ release of classified U.S. diplomatic cables.
Hours after his arrest in April, U.S. prosecutors said they had charged Assange with conspiracy in trying to access a classified U.S. government computer.
“The charge relates to one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the U.S.,” said Ben Brandon, the lawyer representing the U.S.
He said in early 2010, former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning had downloaded 90,000 activity reports relating to the Afghan war.
He also downloaded 400,000 relating to the conflict in Iraq, 800 Guantanamo Bay detainee assessment briefs and 250,000 diplomatic cables.
The vast majority of these were later released on WikiLeaks.
“There were computer room chats showing real-time discussions between Manning and Assange over cracking a password to gain access to classified U.S. documents and the public release of the information,’’ Brandon said.
The case was adjourned until May 30 for a procedural hearing with a more substantial hearing planned for June 12.
“The full extradition hearing was some months away,’’ Judge Michael Snow told the court.
Police had moved into the embassy to arrest Assange after Ecuador revoked his asylum.