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Julian Assange, Royal Courts of Justice, 2011

Julian Assange, Royal Courts of Justice, 2011. Photo: acidpolly / Flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0, license linked at bottom of article

The Old Bailey has found that Julian Assange cannot be extradited to the US, reports Lucy Nichols

This morning, the judge of Assange’s extradition case ruled that any extradition would put Assange at considerable risk of suicide due to his current mental health, which is critically poor. The US is expected to appeal this ruling and have 14 days to put their case together.

Assange has been locked in isolation at Belmarsh since April 2019 and has been subject to horrendous conditions in the south London prison, conditions that have been made far worse by the pandemic.

The extradition hearing started in September, and Judge Vanessa Baraitser has heard from Assange’s lawyers and lawyers representing the US. She summed up this morning and made clear her decision around 11am.

If extradited to the US, Assange would face up to 175 years in prison on multiple charges including espionage and hacking. Human rights organisations, as well as journalists’ unions around the world, have called for Assange to be released, with direct appeals to the US President and Joe Biden calling for his freedom.

The case of Julian Assange is a landmark ruling, as his extradition would change the precedent for journalists in the UK, and lead to all manner of issues regarding the freedom of the press. As John Rees wrote in September:

“But for those journalists actually trying to reveal information that the rich and powerful would like to keep hidden, indeed for any whistle-blower that wants to reveal dangers to the public, Assange’s extradition would be a devastating blow.”

In what has been an inherently political extradition trial - with the United States government taking on press freedom in order to punish the man who exposed a litany of war crimes, scandals and lies – it is hugely important that Assange will not be extradited. While this battle has been won, the war is not over, and more legal battles will come.

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