A UK judge specifically cited 'extreme' US prison conditions in ruling that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange won't be extradited to the US
- A UK judge ruled on Monday that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange won't be extradited to the United States.
- Judge Vanessa Baraitser specifically cited the "extreme conditions" of prisoners in the US housed with "special administrative measures" (SAMs) which would be applied to Assange.
- Assange is wanted by the US government on a variety of conspiracy and hacking charges. If convicted, he faces a maximum prison sentence of 175 years
- "In these harsh conditions, Mr. Assange's mental health would deteriorate causing him to commit suicide with the 'single minded determination' of his autism spectrum disorder," Judge Baraitser said in the ruling.
Despite the strong ties between the two governments, a UK judge ruled that extraditing Assange to the US - where he would face "extreme conditions" in prison while awaiting trial - could result in Assange's death by suicide.
"In these harsh conditions, Mr. Assange's mental health would deteriorate causing him to commit suicide with the 'single minded determination' of his autism spectrum disorder," Judge Vanessa Baraitser said in the decision.
The ruling specifically cites the difference in conditions between the UK, where Assange is currently being held, to those in the US, where Assange is likely to be detained under "special administrative measures" (SAMs).
The SAMs process enables the US government to imprison certain types of suspects with increased restrictions. Assange is likely to face such restrictions given his charges.
Following Wikileaks' publication of military and diplomatic documents in 2010, Assange was accused of conspiring to hack US government computers and breaching the Espionage Act. If extradited to the US, Assange would face 18 charges in total in federal court.
While waiting for trial, he would likely be subject to the SAMs process - including solitary confinement.
"Many of the protective factors currently in place," the judge said, "would be removed" by extraditing Assange to the US. "By contrast, a SAMs regime would severely restrict his contact with all other human beings, including other prisoners, staff and his family."
Assange has been imprisoned in the UK since April 2019, following nearly seven years of asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. When the Ecuadorian government revoked Assange's asylum, he was arrested and transferred to HMP Belmarsh.
The US government is appealing the ruling, and Assange's legal team is requesting his release on bail pending the appeal.
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