Julian Assange will not be extradited to the United States, according to a new ruling by a British judge on Monday.
United States officials are expected to appeal the decision sometime during the next two weeks.
The founder of Wikileaks, which opened up vast quantities of government information to the public, and who hid out in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for years, is wanted in the US on eighteen charges — 17 of which are under the US Espionage Act. Assange is charged with releasing hundreds of thousands of classified military documents which had been part of diplomatic cables during the years 2010 –2011.
Assange’s health has deteriorated markedly over the years since he was first charged and reportedly has become even worse during the time of his detention in a British prison.
Extradition would be “oppressive”
Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled that, due to Assange’s present mental health, extradition to the United States and subsequent legal proceedings there would be “oppressive.”
She wrote in Monday’s ruling: “The overall impression is of a depressed and sometimes despairing man, who is genuinely fearful about his future. For all of these reasons I find that Mr. Assange’s risk of committing suicide, if an extradition order were to be made, to be substantial.”
The United States authorities accuse Assange of conspiring with Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning (the former Bradley Manning) to decipher a a passcode known as “hash” so that he could get access to classified information inside a Department of Defense computer and make US military secrets public.
Those who continue to stand behind Assange state that he was a whistleblower who is responsible for uncovering alleged war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq and other human rights violations.
His organization, WikiLeaks, published American military video footage back in 2010 which showed a 2007 Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad which killed twelve individuals. Subsequently, the organization published reams of secret military documents and diplomatic cables.
Charges of political motivation
Assange was arrested at the Ecuadorian Embassy in April of 2019 after sheltering there for years, charged with breaching his bail conditions, and has ever since been held at the high-security Belmarsh Prison in the UK.
If Assange is ever convicted of the charges against him in the US, the 49-year-old could face 30 to 40 years in a federal prison, according to his lawyers. However, prosecutors aver that he would actually face no more than 5 1/4 years in prison. Christine Assange, his mother, has protested that he would not survive extradition.
Although the Assange saga has spanned more than one American presidential administration, his lawyers, charge that the case against him was due to the Trump administration, saying the prosecution occurred “during a unique period of U.S. history under the (President Donald) Trump administration.”
In reply, American officials maintained that federal prosecutors are strictly forbidden to take political motives into consideration while making their decisions.
June 2020 Indictment
New charges did come down in June of last year, alleging that Assange not only conspired with groups of hackers, but recruited hackers who he believed could give him classified information at European and Asian conferences he attended.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Assange was forced to address the court last August behind glass, where he stated during the month-long proceedings that he did not consent to extradition.