Julian Assange: From political asylum to prison

In this file photo taken on 19 May 2017 Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks on the balcony of the Embassy of Ecuador in London. Photo: AFP
In this file photo taken on 19 May 2017 Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks on the balcony of the Embassy of Ecuador in London. Photo: AFP

Jailed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is facing extradition to the United States for the 2010 publication of thousands of leaked classified documents.

A British judge is to begin hearing the case for sending him to the US to face espionage charges on Monday. Here is a recap of Assange's long-running battle to avoid extradition.

2010: assault charges 
Between July and October 2010, Assange's WikiLeaks whistleblowing website releases 470,000 classified military documents concerning US diplomacy and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It later releases another batch of more than 250,000 classified US diplomatic cables.

In November, a Swedish prosecutor issues a European arrest warrant for Assange over sexual assault allegations involving two Swedish women.

He denies the claims, saying they had consensual sex.

But he reports to police in London in December and is arrested pending a ruling on the Swedish request for his extradition. A week later he is released on bail.

2012: embassy refuge 
In February 2011 a British judge rules that Assange can be extradited to Sweden.

He launches an appeal, claiming the Swedish allegations are a pretext to transfer him to the United States.

In June 2012 he takes refuge in Ecuador's embassy in London to avoid extradition. Ecuador, then ruled by left-wing president Rafael Correa, grants him asylum in August.

In May 2017, Swedish prosecutors drop the sex assault investigation after failing to obtain Assange's transfer.

In December, Ecuador grants Assange nationality but is blocked by Britain from according him diplomatic status.

2019: arrest, prison
In January 2018 Ecuador, now ruled by right-wing president Lenin Moreno, says its hosting of Assange has become "untenable".

In March it temporarily cuts off his communications, including use of the internet or a mobile phone.

Tensions peak in April 2019 when Moreno says Assange has "repeatedly violated" the conditions of his asylum.

Ecuador revokes his citizenship on 10 April.

The next day, British police drag Assange out of the embassy, having been informed that his asylum has been withdrawn. He is arrested on a US extradition request.

In May, Assange is sentenced to 50 weeks in jail for having breached bail in 2010.

The legal process for his extradition to the United State begins, and Swedish prosecutors reopen the 2010 rape investigation.

US charges 
On 23 May, the US Justice Department formally charges Assange with violating the US Espionage Act by publishing military and diplomatic files in 2010.

UN rights experts Nils Melzer says Assange had been subjected to drawn-out "psychological torture" that had seriously affected his health.

Assange makes his first appearance since being jailed on 15 June, telling a court via videolink that WikiLeaks is "nothing but a publisher".

In subsequent appearances, he appears frail and confused.

In a preliminary hearing last week, his lawyers allege US president Donald Trump had promised a pardon if Assange denied that Russia had leaked to him damaging emails about rival candidate Hillary Clinton ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

The White House denies the claim.

Swedish charge dropped 
On 19 November, Swedish prosecutors say they have dropped the rape investigation because "the evidence is not strong enough" despite "credible" claims from the woman who filed the complaint.