A British court has ruled that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange shouldn’t be extradited to the US in order to stand trial. Judge Vanessa Baraitser said that, while Assange had exceeded the role of a journalist, the risk to his mental and physical wellbeing was too great. The US has already committed to appealing the ruling, and the case is likely to end up in the British Supreme Court, a process likely to take several years.
Wikileaks was founded in 2006, but received global attention in 2010 after publishing a series of documents about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The site would go on to publish leaked material from the State Department, Guantanamo Bay and the Democratic National Committee. Assange’s critics in the US believe that he has received material from hostile nation-state actors, including Russia.
“I accept that there are entries in the notes which indicate a much better mood and lighter spirits at times, however the overall impression is of a depressed and sometimes despairing man, who is genuinely fearful about his future,” the judge said. “For all of these reasons I find that Mr. Assange’s risk of committing suicide, if an extradition order were to be made, to be substantial.”
The 49-year-old Australian is wanted in the US on charges of espionage and conspiracy to commit computer hacking after working with whistleblower Chelsea Manning. In both the UK and US, advocates for Mr. Assange believe that his work does constitute journalism and, as such, extradition would be a violation of press freedom. In her judgment, Baraitser dismissed such claims, saying that Assange had previously encouraged people to join the US intelligence community in order to leak sensitive information.