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U.S., Assange head to hearing

LONDON — The U.S. government and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will face off Monday in a high-security London courthouse, a decade after WikiLeaks infuriated American officials by publishing a trove of classified military documents.

A judge at Woolwich Crown Court will begin hearing arguments from lawyers for U.S. authorities, who want to try Assange on espionage charges that carry a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison.

The extradition hearing follows years of subterfuge, diplomatic dispute and legal drama that have led the 48-year-old Australian from fame as an international secret-spiller through self-imposed exile inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to incarceration in a maximum-security British prison.

Assange has been indicted in the U.S. on 18 charges over the publication of classified documents. Prosecutors say he conspired with U.S. 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.

U.S. authorities say WikiLeaks’ activities put American lives in danger. Assange argues he was acting as a journalist entitled to First Amendment protection, and says the leaked documents exposed U.S. military wrongdoing.

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