Hearing on Assange extradition to US begins in Britain

Britain has commenced hearing Washington’s extradition request for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in a test case of media freedoms in the digital age and the limits of US justice.

A ruling against Assange in the case could see the 48-year-old Australian jailed for 175 years if convicted on all 17 US Espionage Act charges and one count of computer hacking he faces.

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Each stems from his site’s release in 2010 of a trove of classified State Department and Pentagon files detailing the realities of the US campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.

One video from 2007 showed an Apache helicopter attack in which US soldiers gunned down two Reuters reporters and nine Iraqi civilians in broad daylight in Baghdad.

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The files also disclosed the secret identities of diplomats and government agents in hostile environments — as well as locals who risked their lives by cooperating with the United States.

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