A hearing on the United States request for the extradition of the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange opened in London Monday.
A judge at Woolwich Crown Court is hearing arguments from lawyers representing U.S. that has leveled 17 charges on espionage and one of computer hacking.
If found guilty, the 48-year-old detained Australian would face a maximum sentence of 175 years behind bars.
The charges are related to WikiLeaks release of classified materials from State Department and the Pentagon detailing the U.S. military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as cables sent to State Department officials from U.S. embassies in various countries, and information provided from government agents and individuals who cooperated with the United States.
Assange’s supporters, among which are many celebrities from the realm of music to fashion, have argued that his prosecution has been political and personal from the start, and have demanded his release.
Journalism organizations have rallied in support of Assange, calling the charges against him an assault on freedom of the press.
Assange spent seven years in self-imposed exile in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and after his eviction from there, British authorities sent him to a maximum-security prison in 2019.
Assange was first arrested in 2010 in London at the request of Sweden, which wanted to question him about allegations of rape and sexual assault.