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Judge threatens to remove Assange on 2nd day of extradition hearing

Judge threatens to remove Assange on 2nd day of extradition hearing
Activists rally on February 22 to oppose the extradition of WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange to the United States on espionage charges. File Photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 8 (UPI) -- A British judge on Tuesday threatened to remove WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange from the courtroom during an extradition hearing after he interjected while a witness was being questioned.

The interruption occurred on the second day of the hearing while Clive Stafford-Smith, the founder of the legal nonprofit Reprieve, was being questioned by British attorney James Lewis on behalf of the United States government.

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When Judge Vanessa Baraitser called for a 10-minute recess after an intense exchange between Lewis and Stafford-Smith, Assange said "this is nonsense."

Baraitser quickly moved to caution Assange, who is fighting extradition to the United States to face hacking charges related to documents leaked by former intelligence specialist Chelsea Manning.

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"I understand you'll hear things you disagree with and you'd like to contradict and speak about these things yourself, but this is not your opportunity to do so," she told Assange. "If you interrupt proceedings it is open to me to proceed in your absence. This is obviously something I would not wish to do."

Tuesday was the second day of what's expected to be a four-week hearing in London involving U.S. efforts to extradite Assange.

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Stafford-Smith, who holds U.S. and British citizenship, told the court the classified documents from Manning that were later released by WikiLeaks uncovered war crimes and human rights abuses by the United States.

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He argued that by "over-classifying" the material and taking other actions in the international community, the U.S. government has damaged its reputation over the past 20 years.

"It has harmed us more than anything else," he said.

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