Julian Assange cannot be extradited to the U.S., U.K. judge rules

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A British court ruled on Monday that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange cannot be extradited to the United States because of concerns over his mental health.

District Judge Vanessa Baraitser said that Assange would likely commit suicide if sent to the U.S. as his clinical depression would be exacerbated by the isolation he would face in a top-security U.S. prison. Assange had the “intellect and determination” to circumvent any suicide prevention measures the authorities could take, she said. The U.S. government said it would appeal the decision.

“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,” said Baraitser.

“The overall impression is of a depressed and sometimes despairing man who is genuinely depressed about his future,” she added.

The case against Assange refers to WikiLeaks’s publication of leaked documents about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. U.S. prosecutors have indicted Assange on 17 espionage charges and one charge of computer misuse, which would carry a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison, saying the leaks of classified material endangered lives.

Lawyers for Assange argue that he was acting as a journalist and is entitled to First Amendment protections of freedom of speech. However the British judge rejected those claims, saying his “conduct, if proved, would therefore amount to offenses in this jurisdiction that would not be protected by his right to freedom of speech.”

Assange has now been returned to the high-security Belmarsh Prison in South London ahead of an application on Wednesday for his release on bail.

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