Assange’s U.S. extradition hearing moved to June on health grounds

A protest outside the Westminster Magistrates Court on Thursday.AFPTOLGA AKMEN

A protest outside the Westminster Magistrates Court on Thursday.AFPTOLGA AKMEN  

Britain’s review of a U.S. request to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on espionage charges has been moved to June, with his lawyer telling court on Thursday the whistleblower is in poor health.

The United States has slapped 18 charges against Mr. Assange, 47, who had been hiding in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy for seven years until his arrest on April 12.

Sweden has since reopened a 2010 rape investigation against Mr. Assange and could file its own extradition request.

The Westminster Magistrates Court in London held a brief hearing on Thursday at which it moved the U.S. case to June 12. Chief magistrate Emma Arbuthnot referred to Mr. Assange as “not very well”, with the next hearing possibly taking place at the Belmarsh prison where he is serving a separate 50-week sentence for skipping bail.

“It may be more convenient for everyone if it’s there,” Ms. Arbuthnot said.

WikiLeaks expressed “grave concerns” on Wednesday over Mr. Assange’s condition.

Moved to health ward

The website said Mr. Assange has been moved to the prison’s health ward. “During the seven weeks in Belmarsh his health has continued to deteriorate and he has dramatically lost weight,” WikiLeaks said in a statement. “The decision of prison authorities to move him to the health ward speaks for itself.”

Sixteen of the 17 U.S. charges under the Espionage Act are related to obtaining and disseminating classified information. A separate count covers his alleged hacking activities.

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