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WikiLeaks' Assange Too Ill To Appear Via Video Link In U.S. Extradition Hearing


Julian Assange gestures from the window of a prison van as he is driven out of Southwark Crown Court in London on May 1.

A lawyer for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says a video-link on an extradition request from the United States has been moved to June because his client is too ill to appear via video link from a British prison.

Washington is seeking the extradition of Assange, 47, who was arrested after being dragged out of the Ecuadoran Embassy in London on April 11, over his alleged role in the release of classified military and diplomatic material in 2010.

He faces 18 U.S. criminal counts and could spend decades in prison if convicted.

"He's in fact far from well," Assange's lawyer, Gareth Peirce, told the media.

The Westminster Magistrates Court in London held a brief hearing on May 30 at which it moved the case to June 12.

Chief magistrate Emma Arbuthnot also referred to Assange as "not very well," with the next hearing possibly taking place at the Belmarsh high-security prison where he is serving a separate 50-week sentence for skipping bail.

WikiLeaks said it had serious concerns about Assange's health and that he had been moved to a 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."

Assange took refuge in the embassy in 2012, when he skipped bail to avoid extradition to Sweden to face sexual-assault and rape allegations, which he has denied. The case was dropped last year.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and dpa
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