UK judge denies US extradition of Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks

Julian Assange address the press at the Embassy of Ecuador in London where he has sought refuge. 05.02.2016 (Newscom TagID: ptsphotoshottwo914956.jpg) [Photo via Newscom]

It is an ensemble cast of Julian Assange’s Elizabeth Cook’s court, which delivers a verdict in her extradition case at the Old Bailey in London, on Monday, January 4, 2021. A British judge rejected the United States’ request for extradition. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange faced espionage allegations, saying it would be “oppressive” due to his mental health. District Judge Vanessa Baraester said Assange was likely to kill himself if sent to the US government.

A London judge on Monday rejected a United States request to extradite espionage charges to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, saying he was likely to kill himself under harsh US prison terms .

In a mixed ruling for Assange and his supporters, District Judge Vanessa Barrator rejected defending arguments that the 49-year-old Australian faces a politically motivated US prosecution riding Ruffshod over free-speech protection. But he said Assange’s mental health would probably worsen under “isolated living conditions”, he would be lodged in a US prison.

“I think Mr. Assange’s mental state is such that extraditing him to the United States would be oppressive,” the judge said. He said Assange was a “depressed and sometimes frustrating man” who had “intelligence and determination” to thwart any suicidal prevention measures taken by US prison officials.

The US government said it would appeal the decision. Assange’s lawyers said they would ask for his release from a London prison, where he has been held for more than 18 months for a bail hearing on Wednesday.

Assange, sitting quietly in London’s Central Criminal Court for the ruling, wiped his head as soon as he gave the verdict. His partner Stella Morris, with whom he has two young sons, weeps. Outside the court, Morris said the ruling was “the first step toward justice”, but it was not the time to celebrate. “I hoped today would be the day that Julian would come home,” she said. “Today is not that day, but that day will come soon.”

It is not clear whether the incoming Biden administration will pursue prosecutions launched under President Donald Trump. Assange’s US lawyer Barry Pollack said the legal team was “very satisfied” with the British court’s decision. “We hope that after considering the U.K. court’s decision, the United States will decide not to pursue the case,” he said. Morris urged Trump to pardon Assange before he stepped down at the end of this month.