After confirming his name and date of birth, the 49-year-old was asked if he was willing to agree to be extradited to the United States. Assange paused before answering: “No.”
Supporters, including her partner Stella Morris and costume designer Vivienne Westwood, were among those gathered outside the courthouse.
Assange’s lawyers will argue that his case criminalizes the use of ordinary press methods to publish information in the public interest.
Assange’s attorney, Jennifer Robinson, said: “Journalists and whistleblowers exposing the illegal activities of companies or governments and war crimes – such as the publications accused of Julian – should be protected from prosecution.”
Secret US military documents released over a decade ago have accused WikiLeaks of Assange 18 espionage and computer misconduct.
One of the files released by WikiLeaks was a video of the 2007 Apache helicopter attack by US forces in Baghdad that killed 11 people, including two Reuters journalists.
U.S. officials have accused Assange of hacking the Pentagon and plotting with US military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to release hundreds of thousands of secret diplomatic cables and military files during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
They allege that he conspired with members of hacking organizations and tried to recruit hackers to provide WikiLeaks with confidential information.
Assange’s trial was delayed due to a corona virus infection and is expected to run until October 2.
The first hour of the trial was spent on “home maintenance” matters, including procedures for dozens of journalists who were granted unprecedented access to a court hearing via video link as a result of social distance needs.
Assange’s silk, Edward Fitzgerald, was asked to spend an hour with his client, saying it was the first time he had seen him in six months.
A witness was expected to testify in court on the first day.
The investigation continues.
Latika Pork is a London-based journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.