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UK Judge Refuses to Extradite Julian Assange

(Noted News) — Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was not on President Trump’s extensive pardon list, so the next hope to hold on to was to not get extradited to the United States. On Monday, Assange was thrown a bone when a British District Judge Vanessa Baraitser decided that if she extradited Assange to the US, he would probably kill himself, therefore refusing to do it against US authorities’ requests.

“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. I am satisfied that, in these harsh conditions, Mr. Assange’s mental health would deteriorate, causing him to commit suicide with the single-minded determination of his autism spectrum disorder,” Baraitser said. 

Though seemingly sympathetic to Assange and not wanting to force him into mental despair, the judge also disagreed with the notion that he was being persecuted, and she dismissed the idea that his actions were covered under freedom of speech laws. 

Lawyers from the US Justice Department were hoping for an extradition but said they were glad the judge at least agreed that Assange was not being politically persecuted. 

“While we are extremely disappointed in the court’s ultimate decision, we are gratified that the United States prevailed on every point of law raised. In particular, the court rejected all of Mr. Assange’s arguments regarding political motivation, political offense, fair trial and freedom of speech.”

Prosecutors from the US want Assange back in their territory so they can convict him of 17 different charges of espionage and one charge of hacking into government computers. These indictments have been condemned thoroughly by Assange’s supporters and various human rights groups, including the ACLU:

“For the first time in the history of our country, the government has brought criminal charges against a publisher for the publication of truthful information. This is an extraordinary escalation of the Trump administration’s attacks on journalism, and a direct assault on the First Amendment. It establishes a dangerous precedent that can be used to target all news organizations that hold the government accountable by publishing its secrets. And it is equally dangerous for US journalists who uncover the secrets of other nations. If the US can prosecute a foreign publisher for violating our secrecy laws, there’s nothing preventing China, or Russia, from doing the same.”

Reacting to Assange’s indictments in 2019, Wikileaks tweeted: “This is madness. It is the end of national security journalism and the First Amendment.” 

Assange, originally from Australia, founded Wikileaks in 2006 as a way for whistleblowers to dump information. In 2010, WikiLeaks found themselves targeted by the US government after military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning leaked a trove of documents exposing various things happening during America’s “War on Terror” in the middle east. 

Assange later spent 7 years living inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he was granted asylum on the grounds of political persecution, until his asylum was revoked in 2019. He has been in Her Majesty’s Prison Belmarsh ever since. 

US Authorities would prefer him to be in at the Administrative Maximum Facility in Florence, Colorado, where notorious criminals like Mexican drug kingpin El Chapo Guzman and Unabomber Ted Kaczynski reside.

If the Justice Department gets its way, Assange is facing up to 175 years in prison. They have 14 days to appeal the British judge’s decision.

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