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US lawyers urge UK court to block Julian Assange extradition appeal bid

Lawyers for the United States have urged a London court to block a last-ditch bid by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to appeal his extradition from the United Kingdom to face espionage charges.

On the second and final day of a hearing at London’s High Court on Wednesday, lawyers representing the US said Assange is being prosecuted for publishing sources’ names and not for his political opinions.

The US is seeking to put Assange on trial for WikiLeaks’ release of vast troves of confidential US military records and diplomatic cables. They argue the leaks imperilled the lives of their agents.

Assange’s supporters, however, hail him as a hero who is being persecuted for exposing US wrongdoing, while rights groups are concerned that his prosecution could curb press freedom more broadly.

On Tuesday, Assange’s lawyers told the court the case was politically motivated, arguing their client was targeted for his exposure of “state-level crimes” and that Donald Trump had requested “detailed options” on how to kill him.

But, on Wednesday, lawyers for the US said Assange’s prosecution was “based on the rule of law and evidence”.

Assange “indiscriminately and knowingly published to the world the names of individuals who acted as sources of information to the US”, lawyer Clair Dobbin said.

“It is these core facts which distinguish the position of the appellant from the New York Times and other media outlets,” she added. “It is this which forms the objective basis for his prosecution. It is these facts which distinguish him, not his political opinions.”

Assange himself was again not in court on Wednesday nor watching remotely because he was unwell.

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