A London judge has rejected United States’ request to extradite Julian Assange- the WikiLeaks founder-who was to face espionage charges. The judge stated that extradition would be “oppressive” because of his mental health.
On Monday, Vanessa Baraitser, District Judge, said that Assange could commit suicide if sent to the US. The US government said that it would appeal against the decision.
Prosecutors from the US have indicted the WikiLeaks founder on 17 espionage charges and another charge of computer misuse over WikiLeaks’ publication of leaked diplomatic and military documents a decade ago. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison.
Lawyers of the 49-year-old Assange argues that he was acting as a journalist, and hence is entitled to First Amendment protections of freedom of speech for publishing the leaked documents. These documents exposed US military wrongdoings in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Baraitser rejected defence claims that Assange was protected by free speech guarantees. She added that his conduct, when proven true, would amount to offences in this jurisdiction which would not be protected by his right to “freedom of speech.”
She also added that the 49-year-old Australian suffers from clinical depression, which would worsen by the likely isolation in US prisons.
Assange also has the “intellect and determination” to get around any suicide prevention measures which the authorities could take, added the judge.