Julian Assange Settles In London Prison Ahead Of Big Legal Battle

Julian Assange should finally be able to receive medical care after swapping his embassy hideout for a prison, but faces a lengthy and uncertain legal battle.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, 47, has exchanged a small room at the Ecuadorian embassy in London for a cell at Belmarsh Prison, a grim institution in the city's southeast where he nevertheless has certain advantages he didn't have before.

WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson says the ailing Assange should finally be able to receive medical care and will be able to meet with his lawyers more easily than he could in the embassy.

A feud with Ecuadorian authorities had led to a ban on most guests for Assange, who has extreme shoulder pain and tooth pain, Hrafnsson said on Friday.

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For nearly seven years, Assange lived in the embassy without taking a step outside for fear of being arrested and sent to the US to be prosecuted.

British authorities dragged the Australian from the embassy on Thursday and US authorities announced charges against him of conspiring to break into a Pentagon computer -- setting up what is expected to be an epic legal and political battle over whether to extradite him to the US.

Hrafnsson said the prison where Assange is being held has medical facilities and presumably access to dental care and a garden.

"But comparing one prison to another and giving a star rating is not really what's on my mind," he said.

"What's on my mind is there's an innocent man in prison for doing his job as a journalist, and that's an outrage."

Julian Assange speaks to the media from the balcony of the Embassy Of Ecuador on May 19, 2017 in London. Image: Getty.

He said Assange is in a relatively good mental condition, considering the stress of recent days.

The political debate over whether to extradite Assange is already taking shape, with Britain's opposition Labour Party urging the government not to hand him over to the Americans.

Party leader Jeremy Corbyn tweeted that the US is prosecuting Assange because he exposed "evidence of atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan".

Assange's bid to fend off extradition could take years and involve several layers of appeal.

He could also face a second extradition request if Sweden decides to pursue a rape case against him that was suspended in 2017, when he was in the embassy, beyond the reach of the law.

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If found guilty of the US charges, Assange faces up to five years in prison. His next court appearance is set for May 2 via a prison video link.

Extradition lawyer Ben Keith said the court will not assess the evidence against Assange to determine his guilt or innocence, but will scrutinise whether the offence he is accused of in the US would be a crime in Britain.

"The most likely outcome is that he will be extracted to the United States," Keith said.

If Assange loses in extradition court, he could appeal several times and ultimately try to have his case heard at the European Court of Human Rights -- unless Britain has left the EU by that time.