British Judge Denies US Request To Extradite Julian Assange
A British judge has rejected a US request to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to America, ruling that such a move would be “oppressive” by reason of his mental health.
District Judge Vanessa Baraitser said that Assange would likely commit suicide if sent to the United States as his clinical depression would be exacerbated by the isolation he would face in a top-security prison. Assange had the “intellect and determination” to circumvent any suicide prevention measures the authorities could take, she said.
The U.S. government said it would appeal the decision.
“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,” said Baraitser in her ruling on Monday.
In her full ruling, published online, Judge Baraitser wrote: “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.”
“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,” she added.
A packed crowd of supporters celebrated the news outside the Old Bailey in London on Monday, shouting: “Free, free, free, Assange!”
The US said it would appeal against the decision and asked for the WikiLeaks founder to be remanded in custody while that process was ongoing.
Assange’s lawyers and supporters have long argued that the extradition order against him is politically motivated, and that, if carried out, it would have a chilling effect on the freedom of the press in both the United States and the United Kingdom.
Speaking outside court on Monday, Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief, said he was concerned that the decision would be appealed and called on President Donald Trump to “end this now.”
Assange has now been returned to the high-security Belmarsh Prison in South London ahead of an application on Wednesday for his release on bail.