British judge blocks Julian Assange’s extradition to US for suicide risk

Julian Assange cannot be extradited to the United States to face charges of leaking secret military documents due to his serious mental health issues, a British judge has ruled.

The founder of WikiLeaks is charged in the United States with a list of 18 federal crimes, including conspiracy to obtain and publish hundreds of thousands of pages of government documents. His lawyers have warned he faces up to 175 years in prison if convicted, but the US government has said the sentence would likely be between four and six years.

Ahead of the ruling, Stella Moris, who has two children with Assange, said his extradition would be an “unthinkable parody” and undermine press freedom in Britain. “This would rewrite the rules of what is allowed to be published here,” she wrote in the Mail on Sunday. “He is at risk of being buried in the darkest, darkest corner of the American prison system for the rest of his life. Julian has embarrassed Washington and it’s their revenge.

The case against Assange stems from WikiLeaks’ publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as top-secret diplomatic cables, ten years ago. He has been held in Belmarsh High Security Prison since police officers took him away from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in 2019, where he had locked himself for seven years, and arrested him for breaching the conditions of bail.

A month later, the US Department of Justice indicted the founder of WikiLeaks for revealing government secrets under the Espionage Act – the first time a publisher has been charged under the Act of First World War. Assange has always denied accusations he plotted with US defense analyst Chelsea Manning to crack an encrypted password on US Department of Defense systems, and said there was no evidence of the accusation that his leaks risked the lives or safety of American informants.

In a series of hearings over the past year, which have been repeatedly delayed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, lawyers for Assange have argued that the Trump administration is suing Assange over charges. “purely political” reasons. They argued that he would be denied a fair trial in a US court because he had humiliated the US government with the leaks, and said his fragile mental health means he is at “high risk for suicide” , so that his extradition could effectively amount to a death sentence.

One of the most astonishing moments in the trial came when attorneys representing the United States accepted the claim that the founder of WikiLeaks had been offered a presidential pardon by a member of Congress on the condition that he would help cover up Russia’s involvement in hacking Democratic National Committee emails. Jennifer Robinson, a lawyer, told the court she attended a meeting between Assange and Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher in 2017.

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