The United States’ fight to get Wikileaks founder Julian Assange extradited so that he could stand a trial in a US court doesn’t seem to conclude anytime soon.
A British court has ruled against Julian Assange’s extradition to the United States. The ruling was delivered in a UK criminal court on Monday.
A Case of Sour Grapes?
Julian Assange is facing espionage charges in the US for running Wikileaks. In 2012, Assange fled to the Ecuadorean embassy in London after he lost the case in Sweden. Reportedly, the controversial website founder faced sex-crimes related charges in Sweden, which were later dropped.
Assange spent seven years in the UK. But in 2019, he lost the Ecuadoran government’s protection and got arrested for violating UK bail conditions. Since then, the US’s fight to get Assange extradited to the US started. However, after a long court battle, the British court has denied the extradition of Assange on the grounds of mental health.
Assange at a Higher Risk of Suicide
On Monday, Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled in favor of Assange, citing that he’s not mentally fit to stand trial in the US. The judge explained that while she didn’t doubt the fairness of the trial Assange will face in the US, she was concerned that he might take his life.
The judge noted that Assange is at a high risk of suicide, which is why he cannot be extradited to the US. He will remain in British custody until he gets bail. It is worth noting that this particular ruling was about the US’s request for handing over Assange as the two countries share an extradition treaty.
“I find that the mental condition of Mr Assange is such that it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America,” the judge said.
The full ruling of the court is available here.
Breaking: UK judge rules against extradition of Assange to US #AssangeCase
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) January 4, 2021
The US to Appeal Against the Decision
The judge also ruled that the US government has the right to appeal against this decision. The US will appeal in a London high court, and the matter will then be taken to the Supreme Court.
It is reported that outgoing US President Donald Trump was considering a pardon for Assange. Perhaps, it isn’t too surprising because Trump had benefitted the most from Wikileaks’ DNC released while he was campaigning for the 2016 presidential elections. But, surprisingly, Assange’s name didn’t appear in December’s round of appeals. Whether or not Trump intends to intervene in this case is still unclear.
Assange Facing up to 175 Years in Prison
Assange is facing 18 charges in the US, all related to publishing classified US files and diplomatic cables via Wikileaks during 2010 and 2011. According to the US Department of Justice, Assange hacked government computers and breached secrecy law by releasing the sensitive cables leaked by US Army analyst Chelsea Manning.
The justice department alleges that the publication of confidential data was illegal and jeopardized national security and integrity. If Assange is extradited to the US, he may get up to 175 years in prison. However, prosecutors claim that he may get up to five years of jail time.
Wikileaks- A Controversial Non-Profit Organization
Wikileaks is one of the most controversial whistleblower organizations of recent times. Its founder and publisher, Julian Assange, established it to leak confidential government documents to expose governments’ wrongdoings. It came to the limelight after Assange published documents related to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, where he revealed the US military’s unethical practices.
During the 2016 presidential election campaign, the site leaked documents and emails from the DNC (Democratic National Committee), which created a perception that the party favored Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders.