The British court has rejected Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s extradition to the United States over concerns including his suicide.
The court blocked the extradition request because of concerns over his mental health. He is feared to commit suicide in the US. The Australian journalist is wanted for leaking the publication of thousands of classified documents in 2010 and 2011.
The US maintains the leaks violated the law and endangered lives. The 49-year-old has battled the extradition and argues the case is politically motivated.
The US government has 14 days in which to appeal and is likely to do so. This means Julian Assange is not expected to be freed immediately from London’s Belmarsh Prison.
Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled that while US authorities met the Wikileaks founder’s tests to be extradited for trial, the prosecutors were incapable of preventing him from attempting to take his own life.
Venessa outlined evidence of his suicidal tendencies and said: “The general impression is of a depressed and sometimes despairing man fearful for his future.”
The district judge said: “Faced with the conditions of almost total isolation without the protective aspects which limited his risk at HMP Belmarsh, I am satisfied the procedures described by the US authorities will not prevent Mr Assange from finding a way to take his own life and for this reason… extradition would be oppressive by reason of mental harm and I order his discharge.”
As the judge read out her ruling today, Assange, who was clad in a blue suit and green face mask in the dock, closed his eyes.
His partner and fiancee Stella Moris, with whom bore him two sons, wept. She was comforted by Wikileaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson, who sat beside her in court.
According to his lawyers, if convicted in the US, the Aussie faces a penalty of up to 175 years in jail. However, the US authorities said the sentence was more likely to last up to six years.
Assange faces an 18-count indictment from the US authorities, accusing him of conspiring to hack into the country’s military databases to obtain sensitive secret information concerning the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. The acquired information was then published on the Wikileaks website.
According to Assange, the information exposed abuses by the US military.
However, the US prosecutors maintain the leaks of classified material endangered lives, leading the US to seek his extradition from the UK.
Extradition is the process under which one state can ask another to hand over a suspect to face trial.
In May 2019, Assange was jailed for 50 weeks for breaching his bail conditions after seeking refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The asylum in the embassy prolonged for seven years from 2012 until he was finally arrested in April 2019.
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