French protesters, many donning yellow vests, took a bus across the English Channel to protest outside of Julian Assange's Thursday extradition hearing in London, according to Bloomberg.
Arriving just one day after chaotic May Day clashes with Paris police, the protesters highlighted the growing movement of activists who voicing concern as UK courts gear up to consider a US extradition request for the WikiLeaks founder.
"We came here to show support because Assange represents
part of the information revolution," said 39-year-old French protester Alice Eff, who said she arrived on an 80-seat bus with other Assange supporters.
WikiLeaks’ release of hundreds of thousands of classified
cables, and war logs from Afghanistan and Iraq had struck a
chord with the movement, she said outside Westminster
Magistrates Court, though there was no formal connection with
the WikiLeaks organization.
American authorities are pursuing extradition so Assange
can face trial on accusations that he conspired with ex-Army
analyst Chelsea Manning to illegally download classified
government material. Eff said she was concerned that the
existing U.S. charge against Assange could be further broadened. -Bloomberg
"We are protesting in France in order to have more democracy and to have more transparency from the government. And that’s what Julian Assange has been fighting for," one yellow vest protester named Vincent told Sputnik News. "So for us it was obvious to come here and to support him to, just tell him that he is not alone, that there are like hundred thousands of people in France at least and I guess all [over] the world, probably millions, that consider him as a hero for doing what he has done, to sacrifice his own life and his own freedom in order to put out in the public confidential information that… yeah, release critical information that is important for the public to know."
Assange was arrested by UK authorities on April 11th after Ecuador revoked his political asylum of nearly seven years. He now faces charges in the United States of conspiring with whistleblower Chelsea Manning to break into a Pentagon computer in order to leak classified information. He faces up to 5.5 years in prison if convicted.
The WikiLeaks founder faces another extradition hearing on May 30, and has told the London court that he does not want to be sent to the United States as we reported earlier on Thursday.
Assange, speaking from Belmarsh prison, was wearing a sports jacket and was not handcuffed.
Asked by Judge Michael Snow if he wished to consent to surrender himself for extradition, Assange said: "I do not wish to surrender myself for extradition for doing journalism that's won many, many awards and affected many people." -CNN
His appearance came a day after another judge slapped him with a 50-week sentence for skipping bail back in 2012.
As we previewed last night, Wikileaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson said Wednesday that the extradition process is where 'the real battle begins' for Assange.
Speaking to CNN after Assange's bail violation sentencing on Wednesday, WikiLeaks' Editor-in-Chief Kristinn Hrafnsson said he was "shocked and appalled by this decision to sentence Julian to two weeks short of the maximum sentence for not showing up in court."
He added that the US extradition claim is "where the real battle begins."
Assange's legal team has yet to publicize its defense strategy, but most expect them to argue that the request is politically motivated. Meanwhile, Hrafnsson declared that it's Wikileaks' view that the charges cited by the US in the extradition request are merely a ruse, and that Assange will be charged with violating the 1970 Espionage Act once he's safely on American soil - a charge that could carry the death penalty.