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Assange fails to appear in UK court, claims illness

London, May 30 (IANS) WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, 47, is too ill to appear by video link for the latest hearing in relation to his possible extradition to the US, his lawyers told a court, here on Thursday.

The hearing was the first since May 2, when lawyers for the US government began pressing its case to extradite Assange to face trial for conspiring to commit computer intrusion with Chelsea Manning, a US soldier-turned-whistleblower, to access classified government documents.

Assange’s solicitor Gareth Peirce told a judge at Westminster magistrates court that he was too ill to appear by video link from prison. The next hearing is set for June 12, the Guardian reported.

Senior district judge Emma Arbuthnot said the next hearing could take place in Belmarsh prison in south London, where Assange is being held, if convenient for all parties.

The US has sought extradition of Assange, who was removed from the Ecuadorian embassy on April 11. He is charged with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, which carries a maximum penalty of five years.

But he could face decades in the US prison after it emerged last week that he was also being charged with violating the Espionage Act by publishing classified information through WikiLeaks.

Prosecutors announced 17 additional charges against Assange for publishing hundreds of thousands of secret diplomatic cables and files on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Assange was previously charged with working to hack the Pentagon computer system, in a secret indictment that was unveiled soon after his arrest at Ecuador embassy.

WikiLeaks said on Tuesday the Australian had been shifted to the hospital wing of Belmarsh after a “dramatic” loss of weight and deteriorating health.

Assange is serving a 50-week sentence after he was found guilty of breaching the terms of bail to avoid extradition to Sweden. He took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition over sexual assault allegations, which he denies, but was arrested in April after his asylum was revoked.




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