A British judge ruled on Monday that WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange should not be extradited to the United States to face charges of conspiring to obtain secret US documents by hacking government computers and violating the Espionage Act.
During hearing in London’s Old Bailey, Judge Vanessa Baraitser rejected nearly all his legal team’s arguments and said she could not extradite him as there was a real risk he would commit suicide and ordered his discharge. While his lawyers had argued that the entire prosecution was politically-motivated by the US President Donald Trump and that his extradition posed a severe threat to the work of journalists.
The development came after weeks of proceedings at the court last year, along with campaigns from Assange’s supporters who have denounced the charges imposed by the United States. Over the course of the hearings, Assange’s counsel had called witnesses who told the court that Wikileaks had played an important role in exposing the manner in which the US was involved in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
During the hearing on Monday, the judge said the Australian publisher’s extradition would be-
“oppressive by reason of mental harm and she ordered his discharge. The judge of the court in the United Kingdom said he faces these prospects as someone with a diagnosis of clinical depression and persistent thoughts of suicide. Following the judgement, Assange’s supporters gathered outside the court cheered and exclaimed: “Free Assange!”
Assange suffers from a respiratory ailment that makes him vulnerable to contracting Covid-19, which has infected many prisoners at the Belmarsh high-security prison in southeast London. He was jailed after skipping bail in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden where he was facing a rape investigation. Later, the charges were dropped in November 2019. In 2019, 60 doctors wrote to British Home Secretary Priti Patel and informed that Assange’s health had deteriorated so much that he might die in prison.
The 49-year-old Julian Assange has accused of 18 charges in the United States in connection with the 5 lakh secret files on American military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq released between 2010 and 2011.