UK Court Denies US Request for the Extradition of WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange

A district court judge in the United Kingdom has denied the extradition of Julian Assange to the United States. Assange faces espionage charges in the USA for his brainchild WikiLeaks. Reportedly, the ruling was delivered at Westminster Magistrates' Court this morning, where Judge Vanessa Baraitser noted that the risk of suicide is too high in Julian Assange. She further added, extradition to American prison system would be oppressive and it could have grave impact on the fragile mental health of Assange.

"I am satisfied that the risk that Mr. Assange will commit suicide is a substantial one," writes Judge Vanessa Baraitser in the 132-page long judgement. She also discussed the testimony of several psychiatrists during last year's extradition hearing of Julian Assange.

"I accept that oppression as a bar to extradition requires a high threshold. I also accept that there is a strong public interest in giving effect to treaty obligations and that this is an important factor to have in mind. However, 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.

"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 added.

UN panel says Assange held arbitrarily
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gestures during a news conference at the Ecuadorian embassy in central London, Britain, in this August 18, 2014 file photo. Reuters

Although the ruling orders Assange's immediate release, at the time of writing, he remains in British custody, as his bail application is still pending. The US government will now proceed against the UK court ruling with an appeal.

UK had detained Assange initially for violating bail conditions and was sentenced to jail for 50 weeks. He faces many charges in the US including conspiracy to hack under the much controversial Espionage Act. This case is seen as one of the most crucial cases in terms of press freedoms and freedom of expression vs state power.

Will Trump Pardon Assange?

The WikiLeaks founder, in the USA, had published a string of classified information using his online platform, which the US Justice Department had stated to be "one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States."

The case has raised concerns worldwide. A number of legal scholars have voiced their support towards the WikiLeaks founder, as they see publishing information. People in the UK have also showcased many protests in support of Assange and opposing the extradition.

Reportedly, President Donald Trump was considering pardon for him. However, the December round of appeals did not include his name. Now, it's not clear whether or not Trump will mediate in the matter.