In a major setback to US efforts to extradite Julian Assange, the founder and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, from the UK to face justice, London's Central Criminal Court, the Old Bailey, has ruled that Assange can not be extradited to the United States.
In the judgment delivered today, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser said Julian Assange came across as "a depressed and sometimes despairing man" and that procedures in the US prison where he will be kept are not sufficient to prevent Assange from taking his own life.
"Faced with the conditions of near-total isolation without the protective factors which limited his risk at HMP Belmarsh, I am satisfied the procedures described by the US will not prevent Mr Assange from finding a way to commit suicide and for this reason I have decided extradition would be oppressive by reason of mental harm and I order his discharge," read her statement obtained by BBC.
The extradition hearings took place in 2020 after the US brought forward 17 Espionage Act charge against Julian Assange that carried a total of 175 years in prison for various crimes such the publication of the Iraq War Logs, the Afghanistan War Logs, the Guantanamo files, and hundreds of thousands of secret diplomatic cables.
In June 2020, the US brought forward a second superseding indictment through which it charged Assange of recruiting and working with hackers to commit computer intrusions to benefit WikiLeaks and for directing hacker group LulzSec to target the CIA, NSA, or the New York Times to steal confidential documents.
According to Kristinn Hrafnsson, the editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, the US government brought forward the indictment based on the statements of Sigurdur Thordarson, a former WikiLeaks staff who is a diagnosed sociopath, a convicted conman and sex criminal, who was exposed by the highest levels of the Icelandic government as an FBI informant and who was involved in an entrapment operation in 2011 against Julian Assange."
In June 2019, Home Secretary Sajid Javid had signed the United States' extradition request paving the way for him to be extradited to the US to face a number of charges. "I want to see justice done at all times and we've got a legitimate extradition request, so I've signed it, but the final decision is now with the courts," Javid told the BBC's Today Programme.
The extradition hearings were initiated after Assange was sentenced to fifty weeks in jail by the Westminster Magistrates' Court for defying the arrest warrant issued in his name. His sentencing took place shortly after he was arrested by Met Police from the Ecuadorian embassy in London after Ecuador withdrew the asylum granted to him in August 2012.
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