UK Rejects Assange Extradition Request

A British court has ruled that WikiLeaks founder Julian Paul Assange should not be extradited to the United States to stand trial over the publication of thousands of classified diplomatic and military documents.

The US Department of Justice initially indicted Assange in April 2019 for conspiring with former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to crack a password to a classified US government computer network, the Secret Internet Protocol Network (SIPRNet).

However, that charge was superseded in May 2019 by a new 18-count indictment alleging that beginning in late 2009, 49-year-old Assange and WikiLeaks actively solicited United States classified information, publishing a list of “Most Wanted Leaks” that sought classified documents. 

"Manning responded to Assange’s solicitations by using access granted to her as an intelligence analyst to search for United States classified documents, and provided to Assange and WikiLeaks databases containing approximately 90,000 Afghanistan war-related significant activity reports, 400,000 Iraq war-related significant activities reports, 800 Guantanamo Bay detainee assessment briefs, and 250,000 US Department of State cables," said the DOJ. 

The security incident, in which many documents classified at the Secret level were exposed, was described by the DOJ as one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States.   

In Westminster Magistrates' Court today, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser rejected the Trump administration's request to extradite Assange to the United States on mental health grounds. 

“That extradition should be refused because it would be unjust and oppressive by reason of Mr. Assange’s mental condition and the high risk of suicide pursuant to section 91 of the EA 2003,” Baraitser said.

Referring to the opinion of Professor Michael Kopelman, medical expert and emeritus professor of neuropsychiatry at King's College London, Baraitser said, “Taking account of all of the information available to him, he considered Mr Assange’s risk of suicide to be very high should extradition become imminent. This was a well-informed opinion carefully supported by evidence and explained over two detailed reports.”

Commenting on Baraitser's decision, the Freedom of the Press Foundation said: "This is a huge relief to anyone who cares about the rights of journalists.

"The extradition request was not decided on press freedom grounds; rather, the judge essentially ruled the US prison system was too repressive to extradite. However, the result will protect journalists everywhere."

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