- January 5, 2021
- Posted by: Bastion team
- Category: World News
LONDON • A British judge has ruled that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should not be extradited to the United States to face espionage charges for publishing hundreds of thousands of secret documents online.
District Judge Vanessa Baraitser yesterday said the 49-year-old Australian publisher was a suicide risk if he was sent into US custody.
“For this reason I have decided extradition would be oppressive by reason of mental harm and I order his discharge,” she added.
In court, Assange wiped his forehead as the decision was announced while his fiancee Stella Moris burst into tears and was embraced by WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson. Outside the Old Bailey court in London, his supporters erupted in cheers and shouted: “Free Assange!”
Assange and his legal team have long argued that the protracted case, which has become a cause celebre for media freedom, was politically motivated.
Assange faced 18 charges in the US relating to the 2010 release by WikiLeaks of 500,000 secret files detailing aspects of military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. If convicted in the US, Assange faced up to 175 years in jail.
After Sweden first issued an arrest warrant for Assange in 2010 over allegations of sexual assault, he sought asylum in Ecuador’s embassy in London, where he remained from 2012 until 2019 when Ecuador revoked his citizenship.
Britain arrested him for breaching his bail terms but he remained in custody pending the ruling on the extradition request. The Swedish assault case was later dropped due to lack of evidence.