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US at Assange Hearing: He's a Criminal, Not a Journalist

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The question of whether Julian Assange will have to face criminal charges in the US that could leave him imprisoned for life is now being debated in a British court.

Opening arguments in Assange's extradition hearing in London have begun, with the US laying out its case, reports the Guardian. One line might sum up the American government's view: “Reporting or journalism is not an excuse for criminal activities or a license to break ordinary criminal laws," said James Lewis, the lawyer representing the US, per the AP. The 48-year-old Assange was in court to watch the proceedings. Opening arguments are expected to take a week, and the hearing will then adjourn until May. In fact, the question may take years to settle, given the expected appeals no matter the outcome.

Assange's legal team will begin their own opening arguments on Tuesday. He faces 175 years in prison on charges of violating the US Espionage Act, after his WikiLeaks website published a trove of classified material. The US maintains that Assange's actions put the lives of US intelligence sources at risk because they were named in the material. “He is not charged with disclosure of embarrassing or awkward information that the government would rather not have have disclosed,” said Lewis. “The disclosures charges are solely where there was a risk of risk.” (Catch up with previous Assange stories.)

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