A bid by the US to have Julian Assange extradited from Britain to face accusations of hacking and spying will be heard early next year.

The date for a full hearing was set by Westminster Magistrates Court on Friday after Home Secretary Sajid Javid agreed to the American request.

The 47-year-old Wikileaks founder, who is serving a 50-week prison sentence after being dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy in April and jailed for a bail violation, is fighting against being sent to the States.

An investigation has also been reopened into an allegation of rape in Sweden, which Assange has always denied.

Chief magistrate Emma Arbuthnot ordered for a full extradition hearing expected to last five days to begin on 25 February.

Opening the case management proceedings, Ben Brandon, representing the US, said: This is related to one of the largest compromises of confidential information in the history of the United States.

The 18 charges levelled against Assange include allegations of conspiring to hack into a classified Pentagon computer.

Appearing by videolink for the short hearing, Assange, with a scraggly white beard and wearing a grey T-shirt and black-framed glasses, told the court: 175 years of my life is effectively at stake.

Addressing the judge as Lady Arbuthnot, he defended his website against hacking claims, saying: WikiLeaks is nothing but a publisher.

The court also heard that he has a date at the Court of Appeal, with his legal team later explaining he is to appeal against his sentence for breach of bail.

Mark Summers QC, representing Assange, told the court there are a multiplicity of profound issues with the extradition case.

We say it represents an outrageous and full-frontal assault on journalistic rights, he said.

Protesters outside the court branded the Home Secretary’s decision to rubber stamp the US request illegal and immoral.

Jeannie Farr, who held a banner which said the UK must resist, said: It completely forgets the due process of law.

We used to have some notion in a democracy that you were innocent until proven guilty.

Ms Farr, who travelled from Stratford-upon-Avon for the demonstration, added: I don’t think a process can be legal if it’s been set in motion through illegal actions and taking Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy was not done in any way from the rule of law.

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(c) Sky News 2019: Julian Assange US extradition hearing date set