UK Judge Rejects US Extradition Request for WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange
Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder who most notably allegedly played a role in the release of classified U.S. military information over a decade ago, will remain in UK custody, a British judge announced Monday
Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder who most notably allegedly played a role in the release of classified U.S. military information over a decade ago, will remain in U.K. custody, a British judge announced Monday. The 49-year-old Australian has suffered from mental health problems which, if he were to be transferred to U.S. custody, would be "oppressive" to him, asserting that Assange was likely to commit suicide, according to the judgment.
His legal team argued that, if extradited, Assange's human rights would be threatened due to the "grossly disproportionate sentence" and U.S. detention in "draconian and inhumane conditions" would intensify his depression, CBS News reported.
"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," Judge Vanessa Baraitser wrote in her full ruling, published online.
The verdict was made at the Old Bailey criminal court in London, where a crowd of supporters reportedly cheered as the announcement was made, CBS reported. The U.S. government said it plans to immediately appeal the decision.
If extradited, Assange would face 18 counts including computer hacking and 17 espionage charges, CBS reported. The charges would carry a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison.
Attorneys representing the accused whistleblower have argued that their client was acting as a journalist and was protected by the First Amendment which secures freedom of speech. The judge, despite the extradition ruling, rejected the freedom of speech argument, the outlet reported.
The leaked documents, including thousands of pages, exposed various U.S. military wrongdoings and criminal behavior during the Iraq and Afghanistan war. Lawyers representing the U.S. government have argued that publishing such classified material put the lives of sources and informants in danger and damaged overseas operations, CNN reported.
Advocacy groups have defended Assange's activities calling them activities that "journalists engage in all the time," Julia Hall, Amnesty International's expert on counterterrorism and criminal justice in Europe said according to The New York Times.
Adding, "we wouldn't have information without them."
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