UK judge blocks US request to extradite Assange...

Dhaka, Saturday   16 January 2021

UK judge blocks US request to extradite Assange

 International Desk

 Published: 10:23 PM, 4 January 2021  

UK judge blocks US request to extradite Assange

UK judge blocks US request to extradite Assange

A British judge has ruled that Julian Assange should not be extradited to the United States to face espionage charges, saying that such a move would be “oppressive” because of the WikiLeaks founder’s mental health.

District Judge Vanessa Baraitser delivered the decision against the US authorities’ request on Monday, at the Old Bailey court in London.

Assange, 49, appeared in court wearing a navy suit and a mask, and showed little emotion at the ruling, simply wiping his brow.

His fiancee Stella Moris, with whom he has two sons, burst into tears and was embraced by WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson.

Baraitser said he was “a depressed and sometimes despairing man” who had the “intellect and determination” to circumvent any suicide prevention measures taken by prison authorities.

If imprisoned in the US, Australian-born Assange “faces the bleak prospect of severely restrictive detention conditions designed to remove physical contact and reduce social interaction and contact with the outside world to a bare minimum”, she said.

“He faces these prospects as someone with a diagnosis of clinical depression and persistent thoughts of suicide.

“I am satisfied that the risk that Mr Assange will commit suicide is a substantial one.”

The US government, which is attempting to prosecute Assange, reacted quickly as expected, saying it would appeal the decision.

Assange’s lawyers said they would ask for his release from Belmarsh, a maximum-security London prison where he has been held for almost two years, at a bail hearing on Wednesday.

In court, they argued that the case was political and an assault on journalism and freedom of speech.

Baraitser rejected that, however, saying there was insufficient evidence that prosecutors had been pressured by Donald Trump’s team and there was little evidence of hostility from the US president towards him.

She said there was no evidence that Assange would not get a fair trial in the US nor that prosecutors were seeking to punish him, and said his actions had gone beyond investigative journalism.