LONDON. – 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.
US authorities accuse Australian-born Assange, 49, of 18 counts relating to the release by WikiLeaks of vast troves of confidential US military records and diplomatic cables which they said had put lives in danger.
His lawyers had argued the entire prosecution was politically motivated, powered by US President Donald Trump, and that Assange’s extradition would pose a severe threat to the work of journalists.
At a hearing at London’s Old Bailey, Judge Vanessa Baraitser rejected nearly all his legal team’s arguments but said she could not approve his extradition as there was a real risk he would commit suicide.
Assange, she said, suffered from at times severe depression and had been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and autism, albeit he was “a high functioning autistic case”.
Half a razor blade was found in his London prison cell in May 2019 and he had told medical staff about his suicidal thoughts.
“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.
“Faced with conditions of near total isolation… I am satisfied that the procedures (outlined by US authorities) will not prevent Mr. Assange from finding a way to commit suicide.”
Lawyers for the US authorities are expected to appeal against the decision. – sabcnews.com