British Judge Vanessa Baraitser rejected a U.S. request to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Monday, ruling that while Assange and his lawyers had failed to show the U.S. espionage charges were politically motivated or prohibited by First Amendment press freedoms, Assange faced a significant suicide risk if transferred to a U.S. prison.
Assange is "a depressed and sometimes despairing man" who has the "intellect and determination" to circumvent any suicide prevention procedures enacted by U.S. prison authorities, Baraitser said at Monday's hearing. "Faced with conditions of near total isolation," she added, "I am satisfied that the procedures (outline by U.S. authorities) will not prevent Mr. Assange from finding a way to commit suicide." Assange has been in jail, out on bail, or in hiding in Ecuador's London embassy since 2010.
The U.S. has charged Assange, 49, with 17 charges of espionage and one charge of hacking military computers for WikiLeaks' publishing of military and diplomatic communications stolen by Chelsea Manning. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 175 years in jail. The Justice Department said it will appeal Baraitser's ruling.