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WikiLeaks during the 2016 U.S. election campaign. The White House denies that claim.

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WikiLeaks during the 2016 U.S. election campaign. The White House denies that claim.

Assange’s legal troubles began in 2010, when he was arrested in London at the request of Sweden, which wanted to question him about allegations of rape and sexual assault made by two women. He refused to go to Stockholm, saying he feared extradition or illegal rendition to the United States or the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

In 2012, Assange sought refuge inside the Ecuadorian Embassy, where he was beyond the reach of U.K. and Swedish authorities -- but also effectively a prisoner, unable to leave the tiny diplomatic mission in London’s tony Knightsbridge area.

The relationship between Assange and his hosts eventually soured, and he was evicted from the embassy in April 2019. British police immediately arrested him for jumping bail in 2012.

Sweden dropped the sex crimes investigations in November 2019 because so much time had elapsed, but Assange remains in London’s high-security Belmarsh Prison as he awaits the extradition decision. Supporters say the ordeal has harmed Assange’s physical and mental health, leaving him with depression, dental problems and a serious shoulder ailment.

Assange’s partner Stella Moris, who had two sons with him while he lived in the embassy, said he looked thinner and was in “a lot of pain” when she visited him in prison in late August for the first time since March.

The extradition hearing opened in February but was put on hold when the U.K. went into lockdown in March to slow the spread of the coronavirus. It is resuming with social distancing measures in court and video feeds so that journalists and observers can watch remotely.

Assange is expected to be brought by prison van from Belmarsh to the Old Bailey criminal court for the hearing, which is due to run until early October. District Judge Vanessa Baraitser is likely to take weeks or even months to consider her verdict, with the losing side likely to appeal.

Reference: By JILL LAWLESS, Associated Press 2 hrs ago: 06/09/2020

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