Julian Assange Will Not Face Trial In The US - Yet

A British judge has rejected the United States' request to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange saying it would be "oppressive" because of his mental health. Lawyers representing Assange are set to ask for their client's release on bail after winning the first hurdle of his extradition case.

The WikiLeaks founder has been in London's Belmarsh Prison for the past 18 months after being evicted from the Ecuadorian Embassy, where he sought asylum for seven years. Assange would face a total of 17 charges of espionage and computer hacking in the US after he enflamed Washington by publishing documents revealing the grim realities of the so-called “war on terror”. 

 Assange cannot be extradited because of suicide risks, Judge Vanessa Baraitser has ruled. District Judge Vanessa Baraitser said that the isolated conditions Assange would likely to face in the US meant that extradition would be “oppressive”.  “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,” the judge said.

If extradited, the WikiLeaks founder could have been sentenced to as many as 175 years in a high security jail.

British district judge Vanessa Baraitser delivered her ruling at London’s Central Criminal Court, known as the Old Bailey.
She said Assange would be kept in custody, ahead of an appeal from the US. She said it appeared to be impossible to prevent suicide where a prisoner was determined to go through with it, twice referencing Jeffrey Epstein, the US billionaire who took his own life in August 2019 at the New York Metropolitan correctional centre before a trial for sex trafficking and conspiracy charges.

There was dismay among Assange’s supporters that the ruling was solely based on health grounds, with the judge stating she had no reason to doubt that “the usual constitutional and procedural protections” Assange would be afforded in the US.
Prosecutors say Assange helped the US defence analyst Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning breach the US Espionage Act, was complicit in hacking by others and published classified information that endangered informants.

Assange denies plotting with Manning to crack an encrypted password on US computers and says there is no evidence anyone’s safety was compromised. 

His lawyers argue the prosecution is politically motivated and that he is being pursued because WikiLeaks published US government documents that revealed evidence of war crimes and human rights abuses.  In 2007 Wikileaks reveals video showing US air crew shooting down Iraqi civilians. A secret video showing US air crew falsely claiming to have encountered a firefight in Baghdad and then laughing at the dead after launching an air strike that killed a dozen people, including two Iraqis working for Reuters news agency, was revealed by Wikileaks.

The mother of two of Assange’s children, who were conceived during his confinement in the Ecuadorian Embassy,  described the ruling as “the first step towards justice” and called on the US government to drop its attempts to convict him in a US court.

Tim Dawson, a member of the national executive council for the National Union of Journalists told Euronews recently that Assange's treatment has also led to wider concerns about freedom of the press. “The charges he was facing essentially related to activities that were broadly speaking journalistic and our concern was that if he were successfully prosecuted it would set a precedent that would endanger journalists all over the world," he said.

Assange is “free to return home” to Australia if a US extradition bid fails in the British courts, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, as Australian legislators urged Washington to drop its espionage case against the WikiLeaks founder.  US Legal Officers Are Preparing  To Appeal Against The Ruling

Euronews:     CBS:     Al Jazeera:      Guardian:       Guardian:         Independent:

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