Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been jailed in a high-security prison since 2019 for breaching bail conditions. Previously he had been hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy since 2012.
The controversial press freedom advocate who exposed war crimes and corruption during the George W. Bush and Obama Administration – as well as worldwide wrongdoing – is wanted on 17 spying charges and a computer hacking charge in the United States and has been at trial to see if he would be extradited to the US to face these charges. If convicted he could spend 175 years in jail.
British Judge Vanessa Baraitser decided on Jan. 4 that Assange will not be extradited to the United States.
Brief Background of the Assange Case
Assange founded Wikileaks in 2006 and was arrested in 2010 over rape accusations in Sweden. He fled to the Ecuadorian embassy to avoid being extradited to Sweden where he stayed for seven years before being evicted after disagreements with the Ecuadorian government.
The sex assault charges were dropped in the fall of 2019, but Assange was transferred to HMP Belmarsh high-security prison to face the extradition hearing to the US where new charges were filed against him related to his past release of classified info via army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.
Why Won’t Assange be Extradited?
Baraitser said that while most aspects of the Assange case justify sending him to America to face charges she won’t do so because he is mentally ill. In addition to suffering from mild autism, Assange has serious depression and Baraitser believes that the restrictions and prison conditions and intelligence community dislike and demonization of him in the US could push him to commit suicide.
BREAKING: Judge rules against US extradition of Julian Assange, contending extradition would be oppressive by reason of Assange’s mental health
— Kevin Gosztola (@kgosztola) January 4, 2021
Baraitser, who has not been sympathetic to Assange’s defense, more or less said that he wasn’t protected in publishing sensitive military information by “freedom of speech” and said that was not enough of a defense to prevent extradition.
However she said that isolation in US prison could drive him to suicide and that his own intelligence and determination would be enough that he could get around any ways the American authorities tried to keep him from killing himself.
Assange, who is 49, has had a long struggle with the criminal justice system since founding Wikileaks and helping US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning release classified files including footage of US troops committing war crimes.
Critics say Wikileaks releases endangered US troops and allies and compromised election integrity, while supporters say he was simply providing a platform to tell the truth and holding power accountable.
Why is Assange a Priority for the US Government?
According to Assange’s defense, his prosecution is a sign of an “unprecedented” persecution that is motivated by political reasons. Basically he made the federal government look bad and compromised their secrecy and now they want to make an example of him to prevent other publishers or journalists from stepping out of line.
“The mere fact that this case has made it to court, let alone gone on this long, is an historic, large-scale attack on freedom of speech,” according to WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson, who added that “this is a fight that affects each and every person’s right to know and is being fought collectively.”
According to Assange’s prosecution, he is a wild card meddler who placed US troops at risk and helped hack sensitive systems in an illegal manner, although there is not proof that he actively aided Manning in cracking the computer systems in question.
Now that Assange won’t be extradited the US government is immediately appealing and Assange’s team is trying to get him out on bail.