JULIAN ASSANGE SHOCK: WIKILEAKS FOUNDER EXTRADITION BLOCKED BY JUDGE


05/01/2021




Robert HARNEIS -TDO- (FRANCE)- The UK judge blocked the request because of concerns over Assange's mental health. But she claimed that he had broken the law and gone beyond what is permitted for journalists.

The 49-year-old is wanted in the United States over the publication of thousands of classified documents in 2010 and 2011. He claims he was only publishing material as a journalist that was also published by other media notably the Guardian newspaper who have not been prosecuted.

The US claims the leaks broke the law and endangered lives. Assange has fought the extradition and says the case is politically motivated.

The US authorities have said the decision will be appealed.

In her judgement District Judge Vanessa Baraitser outlined evidence of his self-harm and suicidal thoughts and said: "The overall impression is of a depressed and sometimes despairing man fearful for his future."

If convicted in the US, Mr Assange faces a possible penalty of up to 175 years in jail, his lawyers have said. The US government said the sentence was more likely to be between four and six years. However some US politicians have called for the Death Penalty.

Julian Assange faces an 18-count indictment from the US government, accusing him of conspiring to hack into US military databases to acquire sensitive secret information relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, which was then published on the Wikileaks website.

Some of the information he released exposed abuses by the US military.

US prosecutors say the leaks of classified material endangered lives, and so the US sought his extradition from the UK, where he is currently held in Belmarsh Prison. Assange denies this and has produced evidence to show that he warned the US authorities of the danger the release of the information posed.

Mr Assange was jailed for 50 weeks in May 2019 for breaching his bail conditions after going into hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

He sought refuge in the embassy for seven years from 2012 until he was arrested in April 2019.

At the time he fled to the embassy, he had been facing extradition to Sweden on allegations of sexual assault which he denied. That case was later dropped. He claimed that the case was a frame up so as to be able to extradite him to the US. Subsequent events have confirmed this.

The decision by the judge, who has shown consistent hostility to the Wikileaks journalist, has all the hall marks of a political decision. The British government has no desire to defy the US government during the Brexit transition. A free trade deal would be a boost for Britain at this moment but Prime Minister Johnson will not have wished to appear to be a US puppet either. Thus a ruling that he was guilty of crimes in the US but cannot be extradited for health reasons is a nice compromise. It is highly unlikely that the quite junior judge would have taken this decision without a nod and a wink from Ministers.

Assange will now have to wait in custody for the hearing of an appeal to the Court of Appeal and probably beyond that to the UK Supreme Court.


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