LONDON - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange appeared in court Monday to fight extradition to the United States on charges of conspiring to hack into a Pentagon computer, with his legal team saying it needs more time to prepare its case.
Assange raised a fist in a defiant gesture to acknowledge his supporters in the gallery at Westminster Magistrates' Court for a case management hearing. He was clean shaven and wearing a blue sweater and sports jacket. He read his name to the court when asked and gave his date of birth.
Former Home Secretary Sajid Javid signed an order in June allowing Assange to be extradited. U.S. authorities accuse Assange of scheming with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to break a password for a classified government computer. The case is expected to take months to resolve, with each side able to make several appeals of rulings.
Assange's legal team is seeking to delay his full extradition hearing which is now set for five days in February.
Lawyer Mark Summers, representing Assange, says more time is needed to prepare Assange's defense against ``unprecedented'' use of espionage charges against a journalist. Summers said the case has many facets and will require a ``mammoth'' amount of planning and preparation.
He also accused the U.S. of illegally spying on Assange while he was inside the Ecuadorian Embassy seeking refuge.
"We need more time," Summers said, asking for a three-month delay.
Representing the U.S., lawyer James Lewis said the U.S. would oppose any delay to the proceeding.
The case is expected to take months to resolve, with each side able to make several appeals of rulings.
The public gallery was jammed with Assange supporters, including former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, and outside the courthouse others carried placards calling for Assange to be released.
Assange has been in Belmarsh Prison on the outskirts of London while the extradition case is being prepared. He is facing a number of serious charges including espionage.
Assange claims he is a journalist entitled to First Amendment protection.