Julian Assange could face 175-year sentence if extradited to US, lawyer says

US lawyer Eric Lewis tells court WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange could be treated 'harshly'

Supporters of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange take part in a protest outside the Central Criminal Court, the Old Bailey, in London, Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. The London court hearing on Assange's extradition from Britain to the United States resumed Monday after a COVID-19 test on one of the participating lawyers came back negative, WikiLeaks said Friday. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange could face a sentence of up to 175 years if extradited, a UK court has heard.

Mr Assange is fighting extradition to the US on espionage charges at a four-week hearing at the Old Bailey in London.

On Monday, US lawyer Eric Lewis gave evidence to the court via video link warning of the treatment Mr Assange could face.

Mr Assange, 49, has been indicted in the US on 18 charges of espionage and computer misuse over the publication by his WikiLeaks organisation of secret US military documents a decade ago.

“We are looking at a sentence somewhere between 20 years, if everything goes brilliantly, to 175 years which the government could easily ask for,” Mr Lewis said.

He said that the US government takes a “very harsh view in respect of national security defendants”.

Mr Assange is accused of conspiring with former US army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to hack into a Pentagon computer and release hundreds of thousands of secret diplomatic cables and military files on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Manning was sentenced to 35 years before it was later reduced to seven years.

Mr Assange's legal team claim the prosecution under the Donald Trump administration has been politically motivated.

Mr Lewis told the court that it was “significant” Mr Assange had not been charged until 2018 despite Manning being arrested in 2010 and convicted in 2013.

He said the US attorney general was being "much tougher on leakers, including Mr Assange".

Mr Assange is presently in London’s top-security Belmarsh prison while fighting extradition to the United States.

He has spent a year in prison after skipping bail eight years ago to avoid being sent to Sweden over a sexual abuse case.

Previously he was seeking sanctuary in Ecuador’s London embassy until he was carried out by British police officers last April after his relationship with the authorities in Ecuador soured with a change of president.