Monday, 04 January 2021 22:21

UK court rejects US request to extradite Julian Assange Featured

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A British judge has ruled that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should not be extradited to the US to face espionage charges, saying the risk that he would commit suicide are too high. Washington has a fortnight to decide whether it wants to appeal against the judgment.

District Judge Vanessa Baraister told the Old Bailey in London on Monday night that while the charges had been brought against the 49-year-old Australian in good faith, the state of his mental health meant that the extradition request had to be denied, according to her ruling.

Assange was found to suffering from a "recurrent depressive disorder", Justice Baraister said, adding that he also suffered from autism.

She said he was likely to be imprisoned at a supermax facility in the US if extradited and would find a way to take his own life.

“Extradition would be oppressive by reason of Assange’s mental health,” Baraitser stated.

Assange has been held in a high-security prison in Belmarsh, after a hearing to decide whether he would be extradited to the US ended in October.

He faced criminal charges for publishing classified information that was leaked to WikiLeaks by an American soldier, then known as Bradley Manning, but now, after gender reassignment surgery, known as Chelsea Manning.

Assange, one of Australia's best known hackers, was involved in attacks on several American government organisations in the 1980s, at a time when he went by the moniker Mendax.

WikiLeaks exposed the cynicism and savagery that Washington displays in combat areas, when it released a video titled Collateral Murder that showed unarmed Iraqi civilians being gunned down by an American helicopter in Iraq.

Assange was arrested by British police on 11 April 2019 and removed from the Ecuador embassy where he had taken refuge. His asylum was withdrawn shortly before he was arrested and he appeared in court shortly thereafter. The US made a formal request for his extradition on 6 June 2019.

Commenting on the court's decision, Anas Mustapha, a spokesperson for CAGE, a UK-based independent organisation which works to empower communities affected by the so-called war on terror, said: "We welcome the blocking of the extradition of Julian Assange. However, once again the UK-US extradition treaty is exposed to be ripe for abuse as all journalistic and whistleblowing protections fell to pieces before it. Assange was spared only on account of his suicide risk.

"The ruling makes it clear, dissent and truth-telling is criminalised - the only dispensation is the risk of death."


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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