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Julian Assange extradition case: What to know ahead of U.K. hearing

Julian Assange's extradition to the United States may be imminent after years of legal battles. Here's what to know.

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has been fighting extradition from Britain to the United States to face spying charges for years. His legal battle may be coming to an end, as his lawyers make a final bid for an appeal in a British court. The hearing will last two days, and a decision is expected to be made at a later date.

Assange, an Australian-born activist and whistleblower, spent seven years in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, claiming political asylum to avoid arrest after Sweden requested his extradition over assault allegations.

Assange gained international attention in 2010 when he and WikiLeaks published leaked documents about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He faces 18 charges and a potential 175-year prison sentence in the United States.

The U.S. government wants Assange to stand trial in a federal court in Virginia on charges including violating the Espionage Act. The charges include accusations that he helped Chelsea Manning hack government computers and attain and spread classified documents.

Assange spent seven years in the Ecuadorian Embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden over assault allegations. Although the Swedish investigation was eventually dropped, Assange was unable to leave the embassy amid faltering relations with his Ecuadorian hosts.

In 2019, his asylum status was withdrawn, and British police arrested him on charges of breaching his bail conditions. Assange's lawyers argued at trial that their client was in poor mental health, citing evidence that he had written a will and that a razor blade was found hidden in his cell at Belmarsh Prison in London.

In January 2021, British Magistrate Vanessa Baraitser ruled that Assange should not be extradited due to mental health concerns. However, the U.S. government appealed that decision, and in December of the same year, the High Court ruled that he could be extradited to the United States.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, judges at London's High Court will consider whether Assange can ask an appeals court to block his extradition. If Assange loses, the U.S. Marshalls have 28 days to collect him. If he wins, a date will be set for a full appeal hearing, and he may have the opportunity to argue his case again.

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