British Judge Denies DOJ's Request to Extradite Julian Assange

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Posted: Jan 04, 2021 1:50 PM
British Judge Denies DOJ's Request to Extradite Julian Assange

Source: AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth

British Judge Vanessa Baraitser has rejected the Department of Justice's request for Julian Assange to be extradited to the U.S. on espionage charges, ruling that he is a suicide risk. His supporters cheered and celebrated outside London's Old Bailey criminal court.

"The overall impression is of a depressed and sometimes despairing man fearful for his future," Baraitser said. At times she referenced Jeffrey Epstein, the billionaire accused of sex trafficking who later reportedly killed himself in prison.

The U.S. government plans to appeal the decision. Assange, who is being held in Britain's Belmarsh prison, is expected to make his own appeal this week to be released from jail.

In 2019, the DOJ indicted Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, on 17 espionage counts and one computer misuse count after WikiLeaks published leaked military and diplomatic documents that were provided by former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, formerly Bradley Manning. Assange claims that his actions helped expose U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan and his lawyers argue that he should be protected by the First Amendment.

WikiLeaks has made the same argument.

"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," stated WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson. "This is a fight that affects each and every person's right to know and is being fought collectively."

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Soon after Judge Baraitser's ruling on Monday, his partner, Stella Moris, called the ruling "the first step toward justice." She has appealed to President Trump to pardon Assange before he leaves office.

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