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A British judge early Monday rejected the Trump administration’s attempt to extradite Julian Assange to the United States, citing the risk such a move would pose to the WikiLeaks founder and publisher’s life.
Judge Vanessa Baraitser of the Westminster Magistrates’ Court warned that extradition “would be oppressive by reason of Assange’s mental health” and said the risk of the publisher committing suicide in a U.S. prison would be “substantial.”
“Wow. The decision was based on the U.S. prison system being so awful and repressive that Assange would be at significant suicide risk,” tweeted Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF).
The rejection by the UK court of the US Govt's request to extradite Julian Assange to stand trial on espionage charges is obviously great news. But the judge endorsed most of the USG's theories, but ultimately found the US prison system too inhumane to permit extradition.— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) January 4, 2021
The U.S. is expected to appeal the ruling (pdf). Pending U.S. appeal, Assange’s lawyers are asking that he be released on bail from London’s notorious Belmarsh prison, where the WikiLeaks founder has been detained since 2019.
While the judge did not reject the U.S. request due to the threat extradition would pose to press freedoms, advocates nevertheless celebrated the judge’s decision as “a huge relief to anyone who cares about the rights of journalists.”
If extradited to the U.S., Assange would face a sentence of up to 175 years in prison for publishing classified documents—something journalists do all the time.
“The case against Julian Assange is the most dangerous threat to U.S. press freedom in decades,” noted FPF. “The extradition request was not decided on press freedom grounds; rather, the judge essentially ruled the U.S. prison system was too repressive to extradite. However, the result will protect journalists everywhere.”
In response to Baraitser’s decision, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden tweeted simply, “Let this be the end of it.”
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