A British court ruled on Monday that WikiLeaks founder and activist Julian Assange should not be extradited to the United States, citing that such a move would lead to oppression due to the Australian editor’s mental health and risk of suicide.
A district court in London ruled on Monday that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should not be extradited to the United States to face conspiracy allegations and espionage charges after disclosing thousands of confidential American military documents online, citing that such a move would lead to oppression due to the Australian editor’s mental health and risk of suicide.
U.S. authorities accused Assange, 49, of conspiring to hack government computers and breaching the Espionage Act for the controversial publication of over 500,000 secret American military documents, including files regarding diplomatic campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.
U.S. prosecutors then indicted the Australian activist on 17 espionage charges and one charge of computer misuse. If convicted, Assange can face a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison.
Assange’s defense lawyers argued that the WikiLeaks founder only exercised his rights as a journalist under the First Amendment’s freedom of speech. They also argued that the entire prosecution in the U.S. had been politically motivated.
In Monday’s hearing, UK district judge Vanessa Baraitser rejected almost all of the arguments of Assange’s legal team.
However, she ruled that Assange cannot be extradited because of his suicide risk if he will be handed over to U.S. custody. She then ordered the Australian publisher’s discharge.
“I have decided that extradition would be oppressive,” Baraitser said in her ruling on Monday.
“Faced with the conditions of near total isolation without the protective factors which limited his risk at HMP Belmarsh, I am satisfied the procedures described by the US will not prevent Mr. Assange from finding a way to commit suicide and for this reason I have decided extradition would be oppressive by reason of mental harm.”
The U.S. authorities said that they would appeal against the decision of the British judge.