UK judge blocks US extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange
UK judge blocks US extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

A British judge on Monday denied a request from US officials to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to face espionage charges. In her ruling, the judge stated that extraditing Assange would be “oppressive” on his mental health, citing evidence of harsh US prison conditions and risk of suicide.

Assange, an Australian internet activist, has been charged in the US under the Espionage Act for illegally obtaining and sharing classified material related to national security. The US alleges that Assange published classified military communications that he received from a former intelligence analyst in the US Army on a website he created, WikiLeaks. Assange founded WikiLeaks to publish news leaks and classified media to bring important news and information to the public. The US argues that Assange’s disclosures put US national security and armed forces at risk and that Assange knew of these dangers when he publicized the information.

Defense lawyers argued that Assange faces a politically motivated prosecution in the US, and therefore extradition of Assange would constitute an abuse of process. However, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser rejected this argument, ruling that the internet activist would be afforded a fair trial in the event of extradition. Despite this ruling, Baraitser carefully considered the “special administrative measures” that Assange would most likely be subjected to in US prison.

Baraitser ultimately denied the extradition request and ordered Assange to be discharged. She found that the “harsh” conditions that Assange would face in US prison, specifically isolation, would negatively impact his already deteriorating mental health. She stated in her opinion, “I find that the mental condition of Mr. Assange is such that it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America.” The British judge relied on evidence she received from a psychiatrist who analyzed Assange in a London prison that Assange was “severely or moderately depressed” and at high risk for suicide.

The judge’s ruling against the US request allows the WikiLeaks Founder to evade US law enforcement. However, the US government stated it would appeal the decision and asked for Assange to be remanded in custody while the matter is still ongoing.