US prosecutors are about to withdraw their request for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, before issuing a new alternative one, his extradition hearing was today told.
Mr Assange's legal team told Westminster Magistrates' Court they understood the US was about to drop the original extradition request for him before making a new one.
The 48-year-old (pictured above) is currently fighting extradition from the UK to the US over the publication of hundreds of thousands of secret cables and military files on the Wikileaks website back in 2010.
Representing Assange, Edward Fitzgerald QC said: "This is the first time the US has indicted it intends bringing a fresh request.
"I have one or two observations - you can't make any orders today, but things might move quickly in the next week or so.
"The position is this. We understand the US intends dropping the existing request and bringing a further request based on a supercedent indictment.
"We can't object to the US seeking to drop Mr Assange's first request because it is in breach of the treaty and is politically motivated and a flagrant violation of human rights.
"As for the new second request we have been kept in the dark and they have sprung it on us at this late stage."
DEMO: People call for the release of Assange outside court today (Jon Austin)
As the case proceeded inside there was a small protest outside where demonstrators demanded the release of Assange from Belmarsh Prison where he is remanded in custody.
He said it appeared they intended bringing a new request after all the evidence of behalf of Mr Assange had been served.
Mr Fitzgerald suggested the proposed new request was a manipulative ploy being done for political reasons to "derail" the hearing which is set to resume in September and put it off until after the November US Presidential election.
He added: "We are concerned at losing the September hearing date if a fresh request is brought.
"If it is to put it off until after the November election I would say it is improper.
"I am deeply concerned that by introducing this at this new stage may have an impact on the future course.
"If they are going to drop the existing request and mount a fresh request can it happen as
soon as possible so we are not kept in the dark and you (the judge) are not kept in uncertainty any further - to indicate we are concerned about a fresh request at this stage with the potential consequence to derail proceedings.
"We are concerned the US attorney general (William Barr) is doing this for political purposes. It is a fact Mr Trump described the defence case as a plot by the
Democrats so we suspect some manipulation.
"Based on the evidence that has been before the cour and the reaction of the presidnet to the defene case in February, can you put that marker down?"
Judge Vanessa Baraitser said: "As it stands today there has been no new request and nothing has been sprung upon you. I would ask you to reserve this until after that request has been made."
Although no new request has been made to the court, the US Departmnet of Justice published it on June 24.
It said: "A federal grand jury returned a second superseding indictment today charging Julian P Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, with offenses that relate to Assange’s alleged role in one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States.
"The new indictment does not add additional counts to the prior 18-count superseding indictment returned against Assange in May 2019.
"It does, however, broaden the scope of the conspiracy surrounding alleged computer intrusions with which Assange was previously charged.
"According to the charging document, Assange and others at WikiLeaks recruited and agreed with hackers to commit computer intrusions to benefit WikiLeaks."
The new indictment claims Assange used conferences in 2009 in the Netherlands and Malaysia to recruit hackers who could obtain classified information for WikiLeaks.
However, Judge Baraitser said the case would still continue in September, and asked if the planned three weeks was enough as further psychiatric reports on Assange's mental condition are being prepared for the court.
Mr Fitzgerald said: "In light of the development we understand is imminent it would be prident to have a fourth week available because in light of the new development we cannot give a guarntee of finishing in three weeks. There also may be a fresh psychiatric report to be served on the CPS in response to what Dr Blackwell says."
Assange did not initially attend the hearing by videolink as staff at Belmarsh Prison had no idea he was required.
He was later produced via the link.