Donald Trump offered Julian Assange a pardon if he said the Russians didn’t play a role in the leak of DNC emails, court hears
- Assange is wanted on 18 charges in the US for conspiring to expose state secrets
- He appeared from Belmarsh Prison, south east London, via video link today
- His lawyer said case isn’t ready so extradition hearing will finish in June
Julian Assange’s lawyer today told a court Donald Trump had offered the Wikileaks co-founder a pardon if he said the Russians were not involved in the leak of Democratic National Committee emails.
Assange, 48, is wanted in the US for allegedly conspiring with Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to expose military secrets between January and May 2010.
He has been indicted on 18 charges – 17 of which fall under the Espionage Act – including conspiracy to receive, obtain and disclose classified diplomatic and military documents.
But Assange’s lawyer Edward Fitzgerald, QC, said former Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher told the WikiLeaks founder he would be pardoned if he denied Russian tampering.
The 48-year-old appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court via video-link from Belmarsh Prison wearing a brown jumper and white shirt with black jeans and trainers. He seemed calm as he rifled through court documents.
The Australian national is being held at the maximum-security prison, also home to terrorists and serial killers, before his four-week extradition hearing begins on February 24.
But the court was told today the case will be split into two parts, the first for one week beginning February 24 and the second for three weeks beginning May 18.
Julian Assange’s (he is pictured in a prison van in January left) lawyer today claimed Donald Trump (right) will offer him a pardon if he says the Russians had nothing to do with his election victory
Edward Fitzgerald, QC, representing Assange, said a witness statement would refer to ‘Mr Rohrabacher going to see Mr Assange and saying on instructions of the President offering pardon or some other way out if Mr Assange said the Russians had nothing to do with the DNC leaks.’
He also revealed he would rely on Manning’s case to argue for Assange to stay in the UK.
Manning is a former US soldier who was court martialed after disclosing to WikiLeaks nearly 750,000 military and diplomatic documents.
She was imprisoned from 2010 until 2017 when her sentence was commuted, but Manning is currently in jail for her continued refusal to testify before a grand jury against Assange.
‘Chelsea Manning’s plea and mitigation to the military commission has key passages which we will be relying on so we would seek to extract that and key press reports so the court has key materials.’
Mr Fitzgerald said: ‘What we say is it is an abuse to seek extradition for a political offence so that is really part of the abuse argument.’
The 48-year-old appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court (protestors pictured outside) today via video-link from Belmarsh Prison
The public gallery was packed to capacity with supporters as the court heard Assange’s four-week extradition hearing will start next week.
Assange went into hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden for sexual offence allegations which he has always denied.
He was jailed for 50 weeks last April after breaching his bail conditions when the asylum period he was given expired.
In November Swedish authorities dropped the rape allegations made against him in 2010.
Assange has been in custody since he was dramatically removed from Ecuador’s embassy building in central London last April.
He will next appear at Belmarsh Magistrates’ Court on February 24.
Julian Assange’s father John Shipton is pictured outside Belmarsh Prison where his son is being held amid protests there yesterday