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

Gas prices spike in northern B.C. ahead of the long weekend

Fuel went up 17 cents overnight in Prince Rupert

Cyclist braking stigma on addiction from coast to coast

Mathew Fee aims at world record for longest distance on BMX bike while sharing his story of recovery

Hazelton RCMP officer pleads not guilty to assault

A trial date for Const. Eric Unrau will be set on Apr. 23

Blackwater Gold Project receives a thumbs up from the Environmental Assessment Agency

The $1.8 billion project will provide approximately 2,000 jobs

4 victims killed in Penticton shooting spree remembered at vigil

John Brittain, 68, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder

Three climbers presumed dead after avalanche in Banff National Park

One of the men is American and the other two are from Europe, according to officials

TSB issues two safety recommendations in probe of fatal B.C. train derailment

The train derailment killed three crew members on board

VIDEO: Trump tried to seize control of Mueller probe, report says

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report revealed to a waiting nation Thursday

Short-circuit likely caused Notre Dame fire: police official

Investigators made an initial assessment of the cathedral but can’t yet search charred interior

Whitecaps fans stage walkout over club’s response to allegations against B.C. coach

Soccer coach has been suspended by Coastal FC since February

BC Ferries to pilot selling beer and wine on select sailings

Drinks from select B.C. breweries and VQA wineries will be available on the Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen route

Elizabeth May’s B.C. wedding will be a ‘low carbon affair’ on Earth Day

Green party leader’s wedding party to depart in a cavalcade of electric cars

B.C. awaits Kenney’s ‘turn off taps,’ threat; Quebec rejects Alberta pipelines

B.C. Premier John Horgan said he spoke with Kenney Wednesday and the tone was cordial

Most Read