Hero or criminal? Court hears 2 views of WikiLeaks’ Assange

Hero or criminal? Court hears 2 views of WikiLeaks’ Assange
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange leaves in a prison van after appearing at Westminster Magistrates Court, for an administrative hearing in London, Monday, Jan. 13, 2020. Assange made a brief court appearance Monday in his bid to prevent extradition to the United States to face serious espionage charges. (Source: AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

LONDON (AP) — A British judge was given two conflicting portraits of Julian Assange as the WikiLeaks founder’s long-awaited extradition hearing began Monday in a London court.

U.S. authorities want to try Assange on espionage charges.

A lawyer for the Americans said the Australian computer expert was an “ordinary” criminal whose publication of hundreds of thousands of secret military documents put many people at risk of torture and death.

They say he conspired with army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to hack into a Pentagon computer and release secret files about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Assange’s lawyer countered that the WikiLeaks publisher was being victimized by a “lawless” American government that wanted to make an example of him.

The judge isn’t expected to rule until several months after that, with the losing side likely to appeal.

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