Posted: Monday, January 4, 2021. 4:48 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: British judge Vanessa Baraitser declined requests by the United States on Monday to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, 49, to face espionage charges over the publication of secret U.S. documents a decade ago, the Associated Press reports.
While she agreed he had a case to answer, she said the Australian’s “precarious mental health” would decline to the point of possible suicide if he were to be detained and isolated in a U.S. prison while awaiting trial. “I find that the mental condition of Mr. Assange is such that it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America,” the judge said.
Lawyers for the U.S. government said they would appeal, and the U.S. Department of Justice said it would continue to seek Assange’s extradition. Assange’s lawyers said they would ask for his release from a London prison where he has been held for more than 18 months at a bail hearing on Wednesday.
His supporters say the case, initiated under President Donald Trump’s administration, should not be continued under successor Joe Biden. Partner and mother to his two young sons, Stella Moris, even went as far as to urge the outgoing president to pardon her partner and return him to his family.
U.S. prosecutors indicted Assange on 17 espionage charges and one charge of computer misuse over WikiLeaks’ publication of thousands of leaked military and diplomatic documents. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison.
Assange’s legal troubles began in 2010, when he was arrested in London at the request of Sweden, which wanted to question him about allegations of rape and sexual assault made by two women. In 2012, Assange jumped bail and sought refuge inside the Ecuadorian Embassy, beyond the reach of U.K. and Swedish authorities. He was evicted from the embassy in April 2019. British police immediately arrested him for breaching bail in 2012.
Sweden dropped the sex crimes investigations in November 2019 because so much time had elapsed, but Assange has remained in London’s high-security Belmarsh Prison throughout his extradition hearing.
Meanwhile, Mexico’s government is ready to offer political asylum to Julian Assange and supports the decision of a British judge to deny extradition of the WikiLeaks founder to the United States, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Monday according to Reuters.
“I’m going to ask the Foreign Minister … to ask the government of the United Kingdom about the possibility of letting Mr. Assange be freed and for Mexico to offer political asylum,” Lopez Obrador told a regular news conference. “Assange is a journalist and deserves a chance, I am in favor of pardoning him,” he said. “We’ll give him protection.”
Lopez Obrador, who called the decision a “triumph of justice”, a year ago urged Britain to release Assange, calling his detention “torture” and saying WikiLeaks documents had showed the world’s “authoritarian” workings.
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