Protesters in UK call on government to refuse Assange extradition to US

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Hundreds of protesters were seen descending on London on Saturday to pressure the U.K. government to decline to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to face spying charges in the United States.

The protest featured famous Assange backers such as the band Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, Pretenders singer Chrissie Hynde and fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, who echoed calls for U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson to push back on the U.S. extradition request and cancel an upcoming hearing on Monday.

“I call upon our prime minister, Boris Johnson, to declare his colors. … Be the British bulldog that you would have us all believe you are. Stand up to the bluster of American hegemony,” said Waters. “Julian Assange is an innocent man.” 

Assange, who had spent seven years in Ecuador’s London embassy in exile, is currently imprisoned in London’s high-security Belmarsh Prison. He faces espionage charges in the U.S. over his website’s alleged publication of hundreds of thousands of confidential government documents.

The secret-spilling website’s founder has claimed his work qualifies as journalism and thus deserves First Amendment protections. 

Assange could be sentenced to up to 175 years in prison if he is found guilty on all counts.

National security officials have said the actions Assange and Wikileaks are accused of puts the U.S. at risk, though civil rights advocacy groups say punishing the alleged disclosures would set a dark precedent for the press. 

Assange’s fate will be determined next week at a full extradition hearing that can last several days.

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