Assange’s Extradition Blocked By Judge Over Mental Health
(Bloomberg) -- A London judge blocked Julian Assange’s extradition to the U.S. to face espionage charges on health grounds, a victory for the WikiLeaks founder after close to a decade of imprisonment or self-imposed exile.
Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled Monday that extradition would be oppressive because of the 49-year-old’s mental health, saying he was clearly “a depressed and sometimes despairing man genuinely fearful about his future.”
Baraitser spent the first part of her ruling dismissing Assange’s arguments that prosecutors faced political pressure to send him to the U.S. and that he couldn’t receive a fair trial there. She said, however, that Assange would face “conditions of significant isolation” in U.S. prison. She cited Jeffrey Epstein’s 2019 death as an example of when preventative measures weren’t able to protect inmates from suicide.
“In these harsh conditions, Mr. Assange’s mental health would deteriorate causing him to commit suicide with the ‘single-minded determination’ of his autism-spectrum disorder,” Baraitser said.
Lawyers for the U.S. immediately said they would appeal the decision, a process which could take years. Assange’s lawyers said Monday that they will make an application for his bail later in the day.
Assange wore a dark navy suit and tie in the court, with a dark grey mask covering his mouth but not his nose. Throughout the judge’s hour-long ruling, his hands were clasped on his left knee.
The decision will be a surprise to the Australian’s supporters, who have openly been pinning their hopes on a pardon from U.S. President Donald Trump. Assange’s fiancée, Stella Moris, has spent the last few months making direct pleas for clemency to Trump via Twitter and appearances on Fox News.
Assange initially sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in 2012 rather than face questioning in a Swedish sexual assault case, which was later dropped. Last year, when he was expelled from the embassy, he faced American charges related to WikiLeaks disclosures.
Assange is accused of working with U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to get classified documents from databases containing about 90,000 Afghanistan war-related activity reports, 400,000 Iraq war-related reports and 250,000 State Department cables.
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