A UK judge was given two conflicting portraits of Julian Assange as the WikiLeaks founder’s long-awaited extradition hearing began on Monday in a London court.

A lawyer for the US authorities, who want to try Assange on espionage charges, said the Australian computer expert was an “ordinary” criminal whose publication of hundreds of thousands of secret military documents a decade ago put many people at risk of torture and death.

“Reporting or journalism is not an excuse for criminal activities or a licence to break ordinary criminal laws,” said James Lewis, a British lawyer representing the US government.

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Assange’s lawyer countered that the WikiLeaks publisher was being victimised by a “lawless” US government that wanted to make an example of him.

Lawyer Edward Fitzgerald

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