UK Judge Refuses to Extradite WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange to US Over Prison Conditions

A British judge on Monday rejected a request from the United States to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to face trial, CNN reports.

The US requested that Assange be sent to the states to be tried for violating the Espionage Act for publishing classified military and diplomatic cables but Judge Vanessa Baraitser said such a move would be “oppressive” for his mental health.

"I have decided that extradition would be oppressive and I order his discharge," she said, arguing that Assange would likely be held in conditions in the US that would impact his mental health, noting that he had remained either severely or moderately clinically depressed” and was now considered a suicide risk.

"I accept that oppression as a bar to extradition requires a high threshold ... However, I am satisfied that, 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,” she said. "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.”

Case far from over:

The US said it would appeal the decision.

"While we are extremely disappointed in the court's ultimate decision, we are gratified that the United States prevailed on every point of law raised," Marc Raimondi, the acting director of Public Affairs for the Justice Department, said in a statement. "In particular, the court rejected all of Mr. Assange's arguments regarding political motivation, political offense, fair trial, and freedom of speech."

The US has 10 days to appeal the ruling and the appeal would likely be heard in the next two or three months.

The US will have the opportunity to "provide additional evidence or assurances to the High Court to address the judge's findings about the likelihood that Assange will commit suicide,” Nick Vamos, the former head of extradition for the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service, told CNN. "For example, it [the US government] could agree not to detain him in a particular prison or under certain conditions, or to beef up his health care or suicide monitoring.”

Journalists criticize scope of decision:

Rebecca Vincent, the director of international campaigns for Reporters Without Borders, told reporters that the group welcomed the ruling but was concerned about the "substance of the decision."

"We continue to believe that Mr. Assange has been targeted for his contributions to journalism and until the underlying issues here are addressed other journalists, sources and publishers remain at risk," she said.

Stella Moris, Assange’s partner, said she was "pleased that the court has recognized the seriousness and inhumanity of what he has endured, and what he faces” but remains “extremely concerned” that the US "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."

"Mr. President, tear down these prison walls [so] that our little boys have their father,” she said. “Free Julian, free the press, free us all."


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