Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Attorneys calling the extradition of Julian Assange to the United States said at a hearing Monday the WikiLeaks co-founder should not be allowed to hide behind journalism to break the law.
Assange, who has been in a London prison since last April after living under asylum for seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy, is fighting extradition to face 18 U.S. charges of attempted hacking and breaches of the Espionage Act.
His charges stem from work with former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning and leaking classified documents related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and fight against terrorist organizations.
Extradition attorneys argue those leaks to put informants, their families and others at-risk. Supporters say Assange was acting as a journalist and his work with WikiLeaks should be protected.
"The defense seeks to suggest that the risk to these individuals who, by having the individuals revealed as informants, is somehow overstated," U.S. attorney James Lewis told the Woolwich Crown Court Monday. "I would remind the court that these were individuals who were passing on information on regimes such as Iran and organizations such as al-Qaida."
Assange could face up to 175 years in prison, if convicted.
About 100 Assange supporters gathered outside of the court calling for his release. Further arguments in his extradition hearing will be made this week and evidence will be presented May 18.