Wikileaks founder may walk free following court victory
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange could walk free as early as next week following his bombshell victory in court on Monday, according to reports.
In a major breakthrough for the activist, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled at the Old Bailey on Monday that Assange must not be extradited to the United States by “reason of mental health.”
Judge Baraitser told the court that Assange faced a real threat of “suicide” should he stand trial in the U.S. for Obama-era charges.
Assange’s lawyers are now scheduled to return to the court on Wednesday for a bail application, following the bombshell ruling.
If the application is successful, Assange should walk away a free man.
Having been remanded in custody, Assange will remain at the high-security Belmarsh Prison and the US government has indicated its intent to appeal.
Assange is wanted to face an 18-count indictment, alleging a plot to hack computers and a conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information, according to The Telegraph.
The case followed WikiLeaks’ publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents in 2010 and 2011 relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, as well as diplomatic cables.
Prosecutors say Assange helped US defence analyst Chelsea Manning breach the Espionage Act in unlawfully obtaining material, was complicit in hacking by others, and published classified information that put the lives of US informants in danger.
Assange denies plotting with Manning to crack an encrypted password on US Department of Defence computers and says there is no evidence that anyone’s safety was put at risk.
His legal team argued that the prosecution is political and said Assange, who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and severe depression, is a high suicide risk if he is extradited.
In her judgment, Judge Baraitser referred to the evidence of Assange’s mental state.
She said that “facing conditions of near-total isolation” in US custody, she was satisfied that authorities there would not be able to prevent Assange from “finding a way to commit suicide.”
Judge Baraitser made reference to Jeffrey Epstein in her summary and noted:
“Others have succeeded in recent years in committing suicide at jails…
“Jeffrey Epstein committed suicide at the MCC jail in August 2019.”
Assange’s lawyers had said he faced up to 175 years in jail if convicted, although the US government said the sentence was more likely to be between four and six years.