LONDON (Reuters) - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is no longer being held in solitary confinement and his health is improving, his colleague and spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson told reporters on Tuesday.
Assange is in prison in London, fighting an extradition request from the United States, where he faces 18 counts including conspiring to hack government computers and violating an espionage law. He could spend decades in prison if convicted.
Hrafnsson was speaking at a news conference in support of Assange ahead of a court hearing on the extradition request that starts next week.
His supporters had expressed concern about how he was being treated in prison and about the impact on his health.
Earlier, the London hearing to decide whether WikiLeaks
’ founder Julian Assange can be extradited to the United States to face charges including spying will be split in two, with the second half delayed until May, a judge ruled on Thursday.
Assange, 48, faces 18 counts in the United States including conspiring to hack government computers and violating an espionage law. He could spend decades in prison if convicted.
Following applications from Assange’s legal team and lawyers representing the United States, Judge Vanessa Baraitser at Westminster Magistrates’ Court agreed that his extradition hearing would start on Feb. 24 for a week, with the remaining three weeks taking place from May 18.
Both sides in the case argued that they needed more time to prepare for the hearings and gather evidence. Assange’s lawyers said it was hard to speak to their client, who is currently being held at Belmarsh Prison in east London and appeared on Thursday by videolink.
“We simply can’t get in as we require to see Mr Assange and take instructions … we need time to deal with that,” his lawyer Edward Fitzgerald said.
The first part of the full hearing in February at Woolwich Crown Court will cover arguments that the extradition is politically motivated and an abuse of process.
Clair Dobbin, the lawyer representing the U.S. authorities, said they would oppose allowing Assange to call anonymous witnesses as his legal team intends. The hearing will also hear psychiatric evidence about his mental state.