Crime & Justice

UK judge blocks WikiLeaks founder Assange’s extradition to US

London, Jan 4 (efe-epa).- A British court on Monday rejected a request by the United States to extradite the founder of whistleblowing website WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, on the grounds that it would be detrimental to his mental health and that he would be a suicide risk.

Assange, an Australian citizen, is accused by the US of espionage over the publication of thousands of classified documents in 2010 and 2011.

In issuing her ruling at the Old Bailey, London’s criminal court, Judge Vanessa Baraitser said: “The overall impression is of a depressed and sometimes despairing man fearful for his future.”

“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.”

“For this reason I have decided extradition would be oppressive by reason of mental harm and I order his discharge,” she concluded.

The British Attorney General’s Office, representing the US justice system, has already indicated that it will appeal the ruling, meaning the trial judge will soon have to decide whether to keep Assange in custody for the duration of the new legal process or to release him.

The session was in recess while the defense spoke with the defendant, who was present in the courtroom dressed in a dark suit and wearing a mask.

The judge denied Assange’s extradition on health grounds after previously rejecting arguments presented by the defense to justify their refusal to give up the case.

Baraitser dismissed a claim by Assange’s lawyers that the charges against him were “politically motivated” and that he would not get a fair trial in that country.

The US wants to prosecute Assange for 17 offenses under its espionage law and one under the computer fraud and abuse law, over for the release in 2010 and 2011 of military records and other confidential documents provided by former US army analyst Chelsea Manning.

The revelations on the WikiLeaks website exposed alleged US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, files on the extra-judicial detentions at Guantanamo Bay prison (on the island of Cuba) and diplomatic cables revealing human rights abuses around the world. EFE-EPA


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