(EURO NEWS) – Julian Assange should not be extradited to the United States to face charges of espionage, a British court has ruled.
Delivering her decision at the Old Bailey on Monday, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser upheld many of the arguments from lawyers representing the US, but ultimately found in favour of the Wikileaks founder due to concerns over his mental health.
The 49-year-old is said to have experienced suicidal ideation while detained in London’s Belmarsh prison and has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and depression.
Baraitser said she accepted these diagnoses, adding that Assange would be at real risk if extradited to serve time in solitary confinement in the US. She also noted that Assange had the “intellect and determination” to circumvent suicide protection measures.
The US has long wanted to extradite Assange to face 17 charges of espionage and one of computer misuse in relation to publishing secret military documents of wrongdoing during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Such charges carry a total of up to 175 years in prison.
Baraitser rejected many of the defence team’s arguments, including those of protections referring to freedom of speech and the press as she maintained that Assange’s actions had gone beyond that of a journalist.
She also maintained he would be subject to a fair trial in the US – something the defence team have argued would not happen.
Monday’s decision marks the passing of the latest hurdle in the Australian’s decade-long quest for freedom.
In 2012, Assange moved into the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to skip bail on another extradition request regarding a rape charge in Sweden. He was evicted and taken to Belmarsh in April 2019 – nearly seven years later – and is where he remains today. Sweden dropped the rape case in November 2019.
It was believed, if extradited to the US and convicted, Assange would be placed in solitary confinement in the notorious ADX Supermax prison in Colorado – home to the likes of Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
The level of detention of this prison, which is stricter than a maximum security facility is also home to the likes of Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
The US now has 14 days to appeal Baraitser’s ruling.