A British judge ruled on Monday that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should not be extradited to the United States to face criminal charges including breaking a spying law, saying his mental health problems meant he would be at risk of suicide.
The United States said it would continue to seek the extradition of Australian-born Assange and U.S. prosecutors are set to appeal Monday’s decision to London’s High Court.
The U.S. authorities accuse the 49-year-old of 18 offences relating to the release by WikiLeaks of vast troves of confidential U.S. military records and diplomatic cables which they say put lives in danger.
Assange’s lawyers will seek bail on Wednesday for their client, who has spent most of the last decade either in prison or self-imposed confinement.
“We will continue to seek Mr. Assange’s extradition to the United States,” a U.S. Department of Justice statement said, adding that the United States had won on all the legal points, including arguments relating to freedom of speech and political motivation.
Assange’s legal team had argued the entire prosecution was brought on by pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, and that Assange’s extradition would pose a severe threat to press freedom.
But it was only the real risk he would commit suicide if he were held in a U.S. maximum security jail that led Judge Vanessa Baraitser to reject the extradition request.
Assange, she said, suffered at times from severe depression and had been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and autism. Half a razor blade was found in his London prison cell in May 2019, and he had told medical staff about his suicidal thoughts and made plans to end his life.
“I find that Mr Assange’s risk of committing suicide, if an extradition order were to be made, to be substantial,” Baraitser said in her ruling, delivered at London’s Old Bailey court.