London, Jan 6 (efe-epa).- WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was denied bail on Wednesday after British judge Vanessa Baraitser deemed him a flight risk, despite having blocked his extradition to the United States on health grounds earlier this week.
Baraitser ruled that Assange – who was born in Queensland, Australia – cannot be extradited to the US due to the risk of him committing suicide in America where he faces a range of espionage charges over the publication in 2010 of hundreds of thousands of classified documents detailing military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Announcing her decision to deny bail at the Westminster Magistrates’ Court, the judge said Assange has not yet won the case as the US will appeal the ruling, adding that he has an incentive to abscond until that process is completed.
Baraitser said the 49-year-old Australian, who is suffering from depression and other conditions having been in prison since 2019 after spending seven years living inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, has repeatedly shown that he is capable of fleeing justice even under strict control conditions.
At Wednesday’s hearing to determine whether he would be released, Baraitser accepted arguments by US prosecutor Clair Dobbin, representing the US judiciary, who claimed that Assange had proved in the past that he was capable of going to extraordinary lengths to avoid extradition.
“He is willing to flout the order of this court,” Baraitser said. “As a matter of fairness, the US must be allowed to challenge my decision and if Mr Assange absconds during this process they will lose the opportunity to do so.”
The judge’s decision means that Assange, who was present in the courtroom, will remain in pre-trial detention in London’s Belmarsh jail while the appeal process is heard.
The judge dismissed the position of the defence, which asked that Assange be released from prison and placed under strict conditions in a London home with his partner, Stella Morris, and their two children, on financial bail and under any other conditions which the court may order.
The court’s decision is a serious blow to Assange and his family, as well as to thousands of his supporters around the world, who for the first time saw the possibility of him being released.
Assange could be jailed for up to 175 years if he was extradited and convicted in the US.
Judge Baraitser dismissed the rest of the defense’s allegations that the extradition request was politically motivated and that the journalist would not receive a fair trial in the US. EFE-EPA