By Michael Holden
LONDON (Reuters) - A London court begins hearings on Monday to decide whether WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should be extradited to the United States where he is wanted over charges that he conspired to hack U.S. government computers and violated an espionage law.
Following are key events in the life of Assange:
July 1971 - Born in Townsville, Australia, to parents who were involved in theatre and travelled frequently. Gains a reputation in his teens as a sophisticated computer programmer.
1995 - Pleads guilty to computer hacking and is fined, but avoids prison on condition he does not reoffend.
2006 - Founds WikiLeaks, creating an internet-based "dead letter drop" for leakers of classified or sensitive information.
April 5, 2010 - Wikileaks releases leaked video from a U.S. helicopter showing an air strike that killed civilians in Baghdad, including two Reuters news staff.
July 25, 2010 - Over 91,000 documents, mostly secret U.S. military reports about the Afghanistan war, are released by WikiLeaks, a month after U.S. soldier Bradley Manning is arrested for leaking such material.
In October, WikiLeaks releases 400,000 classified military files chronicling the Iraq war. In November, it releases thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables including candid views of foreign leaders and blunt assessments of security threats.
The leaks represent the largest security breaches of their kind in U.S. military history.
Nov. 18, 2010 - A Swedish court orders Assange's arrest over rape allegations, which he denies, calling them part of a plot to secure his eventual transfer to the United States. He is arrested in Britain in December on a European Arrest Warrant and freed on bail.
Feb. 2011 - London's Westminster Magistrates Court orders his extradition to Sweden. Assange appeals.
June 14, 2012 - The British Supreme Court rejects Assange's final appeal. Five days later he takes refuge in Ecuador's embassy in London and asks for political asylum, breaking conditions of his bail. Ecuador grants Assange asylum in August.
March 17, 2017 - U.S. federal prosecutors expand a long-running grand jury investigation into WikiLeaks, which the CIA director calls a "hostile intelligence service".
May 19, 2017 - Swedish prosecutors discontinue their investigation, saying it is impossible to proceed while Assange is holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy.
April 11, 2019 - A screaming Assange is carried out of the Ecuadorean Embassy and arrested by British police after Ecuador revokes his political asylum.
May 1 - Assange is sentenced to 50 weeks in prison by a British court for skipping bail. In September he completes the sentence early but remains jailed pending extradition hearings.
May 2 - Assange refuses to agree to be extradited to the United States, saying he is a journalist and his work has protected many people.
May 13 - Swedish prosecutors reopen the investigation and say they will seek Assange's extradition to Sweden.
June 11 - The U.S. Justice Department formally asks Britain to extradite Assange to the United States to face charges that he conspired to hack U.S. government computers and violated an espionage law.
Nov. 19 - Swedish prosecutors drop the rape investigation, saying the evidence is not strong enough to bring charges against Assange, in part because of the passage of time.
Dec. 20 - Assange appears in a Madrid court by videolink from London as part of an investigation into his allegations that a Spanish firm spied on him while in the Ecuadorian embassy.
Jan. 23, 2020 - A British judge agrees that the extradition hearing to decide whether Assange should be sent to the United States will be split in two parts, with the second half delayed until May.
(Editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Peter Graff)