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. Peter Weber
British Home Secretary Sajid Javid told BBC Radio 4 on Thursday that he has received and signed a U.S. extradition request for WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange. Assange is currently serving a 50-week sentence in London's Belmarsh prison for skipping parole, and "he's rightly behind bars," Javid said. "There is an extradition request from the U.S. that is before the courts tomorrow but yesterday I signed the extradition order and certified it and that will be going in front of the courts tomorrow."
Javid's signature paves the way for British courts to send Assange to the U.S., where he faces an 18-count indictment for soliciting and publishing classified documents and computer hacking, including controversial charges under the Espionage Act. "The final decision is now with the courts," Javid said. Swedish prosecutors had sought to file a competing extradition request, but a Swedish court complicated that effort last week by denying a request for Assange's detention. Friday's court hearing had originally been scheduled for May, but Assange was too ill to appear in court; the upcoming hearing may be held at Belmarsh, depending on Assange's condition. Peter Weber