A UK judge has ruled that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange will not be extradited to the US to face espionage charges due to a suicide risk.
A UK judge has ruled that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange will not be extradited to the US to face espionage charges due to a suicide risk.

The reason why Julian Assange won his extradition fight

Julian Assange will not be extradited to the United States because a London judge feared he would kill himself in jail there.

District Judge Vanessa Baraitser said that Assange was determined to commit suicide if sent to America to face spying charges over the leaks of hundreds of thousands of classified US government documents.

Judge Baraitser, after finding that Assange, 49, had potentially broken US laws, said that she rejected the extradition on the grounds of his mental health.

US prosecutors indicated they would appeal within 14 days.

"I am satisfied he (Mr Assange) has the intellect, determination and intent to find a way to commit suicide," she said.

The decision was based on the UK's 2003 Extradition Act.

 

 

The Australian Wikileaks founder was likely to be held in a Supermax prison if extradited where he would be kept in isolation and only allowed exercise outside in a cage designed to stop him from speaking to other prisoners.

He would also have limited access to speaking with prison staff in the United States.

Judge Baraitser accepted evidence from psychiatrists that found Assange had autism and Asperger's syndrome, but that he was high functioning.

"In 1991, he (Assange) was hospitalised for slashing his wrists and his paternal uncle and paternal grandfather committed suicide."

 

A part of a razor blade was found in his cell in London's high security Belmarsh prison in May 2019.

Assange was wanted in the US on 18 charges that carried a maximum sentence of 175 years' jail.

He had helped US soldier Chelsea Manning to hack into a government computer and download hundreds of thousands of classified documents.

Judge Baraitser found that he had gone beyond the role of an investigative journalist because he had told Manning how to hack into the system using a "rainbow tool."

He had also told a conference of hackers to join the CIA to steal information.

 

 

Assange had been publishing details of cables with newspaper and media outlets across the world for months, with names removed.

However, he then dumped all of the documents online, which included the names of US informants in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Guardian, which has been working with WikiLeaks to publish the documents, condemned the dump because it had only agreed to use information that had been thoroughly checked and de-identified.

Judge Baraitser said that at least 50 informants were forced to flee their countries following the leaks, which uprooted them and their families.

She rejected all of the defence arguments about freedom of speech, or that Assange's rights would not be protected in the United States.

Julian Assange during his arrest at the Embassy of Ecuador in London.
Julian Assange during his arrest at the Embassy of Ecuador in London.

Judge Baraitser said it was possible to find an impartial jury despite coverage of his case and the length of time between the offending and when the charges were laid.

She had also rejected the impact that the decision would have on Assange's fiancee Stella Moris and his children Gabriel and Max, saying it was "sadly" a common part of extradition proceedings.

The WikiLeaks founder had feared that incoming US president Joe Biden will show him no mercy after labelling him a "high-tech terrorist."

Assange's father John Shipton has now based himself in the United States to co-ordinate his fight.

Another of his relatives was able to visit him in southeast London's maximum security Belmarsh prison in October, with the conditions described as grim.

Mr Biden, who takes over America's top job on January 20, has previously been critical of Assange.

And WikiLeaks was also behind the leak of 20,000 emails linked to Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee who lost to Mr Trump in 2016.

 

Assange was being sought for extradition to America over the leaking of hundreds of thousands of classified government documents in 2010 and 2011, which went out unredacted several months after they had been reported on by newspapers.

One of the charges against Assange is that he helped US soldier Chelsea Manning crack passwords, however, he has denied that claim and the prosecution arguments that he put sources' lives at risk by publishing their names.

Mr Biden said at the time: "If he conspired to get these classified documents with a member of the US military that's fundamentally different than if somebody drops on your lap here … you're a press person, here is classified material

"I would argue that it's closer to being a hi-tech terrorist than the Pentagon Papers."

 

 

Those comments, and the Clinton hack, have some in Assange's camp worried.

Baywatch star Pamela Anderson at the weekend called on Mr Trump to pardon Assange.

Former Republican presidential nominee Sarah Palin, best known as former Governor of Alaska, has also sought clemency.

 

 

Assange's partner Stella Moris, with whom he had two children during his seven years hiding out in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, said at the weekend that she was living a nightmare.

She claimed that the charges against Assange were "political" and worried that their children Gabriel, three, and Max, 22 months, would grow up without a father.

"Julian embarrassed Washington and this is their revenge," Ms Moris said in an opinion piece in a British newspaper.

 

 

Julian Assange with first son Gabriel. He secretly fathered two sons to Stella Morris while living in the Ecuadorean embassy. Picture: Stella Morris
Julian Assange with first son Gabriel. He secretly fathered two sons to Stella Morris while living in the Ecuadorean embassy. Picture: Stella Morris

Ms Moris said that if it was found that Assange could be extradited, it would "rewrite the rules of what is permissible to publish."

Assange had been wanted in Sweden over rape claims, but the case was dropped.

Assange was remanded in custody ahead of a bail application at Westminster Magistrates' Court on Wednesday.

His lawyers sought more time to prepare their arguments.

Assange, who was wearing a prison issued jumper over the shoulders of his suit, was relaxed after the hearing.

He chatted with his lawyers and fiancee Stella Morris, who was in the Old Bailey courtroom.

 

stephen.drill@news.co.uk

If you are experiencing mental health issues or suicidal feelings contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or BeyondBlue on 1300 224 636. If it is an emergency please call 000.

 

Originally published as Assange will not be extradited to US