WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will not be extradited to the US, a UK court ruled
- A UK judge on Monday refused a US request to extradite WikiLeaks' founder, Julian Assange.
- Assange faces a litany of charges in the US, including conspiracy to hack US government computers and breaching the Espionage Act, after WikiLeaks published military and diplomatic documents in 2010.
- He has been imprisoned in the UK since April 2019 and has argued that US attempts to extradite him are politically motivated.
- Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled that extradition to the US would endanger Assange's mental health and place him at risk of suicide.
- The US plans to appeal the ruling.
WikiLeaks' founder, Julian Assange, will not be extradited to the US, after a UK court deemed him at risk of suicide and self-harm.
UK District Judge Vanessa Baraitser on Monday blocked the US request, saying: "I find that the mental condition of Mr. Assange is such that it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America."Assange is wanted in the US on a litany of conspiracy and hacking charges with a maximum prison sentence of 175 years. The US government has accused him of conspiring to hack US government computers and of breaching the Espionage Act when WikiLeaks published military and diplomatic documents in 2010. Assange faces 18 charges in total.
The WikiLeaks founder has been imprisoned in the UK since April 2019, when he was arrested and convicted of breaching bail conditions. Before that, he had taken refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for almost seven years, until it revoked his asylum, saying it was fed up with what it described as his bad behavior. He had fled to the embassy after facing a separate extradition request from Sweden on allegations of sexual assault. The case was subsequently dropped.Since his arrest, he has been housed in HMP Belmarsh, which has been described as the UK's "Guantánamo Bay." The US asked to extradite him in April 2019.
Baraitser said she accepted evidence that Assange had "recurrent depressive disorder." She added that medical notes from Assange's detainment in Belmarsh showed he had expressed "suicidal or self-harming thoughts" to staff members on multiple occasions and that in May 2019 half a razor blade was found in his cell.Baraitser concluded that her "overall impression" of Assange's mental state was of a "depressed and sometimes despairing man, who is genuinely fearful about his future."The US said it would appeal the decision, per the Associated Press.
Baraitser said Assange was expected to be kept in custody ahead of the appeal from the US, per The Independent.
"Today is a victory for Julian. Today's victory is the first step towards justice in this case," Assange's fiancée, Stella Moris, told reporters Monday."We are pleased that the court has recognized the seriousness and inhumanity of what he has endured and what he faces. But let's not forget the indictment in the US has not been dropped. We are extremely concerned that the US government has decided to appeal this decision," she said.
She added: "It continues to want to punish Julian and make him disappear into the deepest, darkest hole of the US prison system for the rest of his life. That can never happen. We will never accept that journalism is a crime in this country or in any other."
—BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) January 4, 2021
Assange's legal team and the US Department of Justice did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Business Insider.
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