Senin, 04 Januari 2021

Julian Assange will not be extradited to the US on espionage charges - Sydney Morning Herald

London: A British judge has rejected a Trump administration bid to extradite Julian Assange to face charges relating to WikiLeaks’ publication of classified diplomatic cables a decade ago, saying that he would be a suicide risk.

Assange was present in the courtroom in the Old Bailey on Monday evening (AEDT) to hear the ruling. He wore a dark suit, a tie and white shirt and dark face mask covering his mouth but not his nose. He sat in a glass-enclosed dock with his hands folded, resting on his left thigh.

Julian Assange pictured in 2017.

Julian Assange pictured in 2017.Credit:AP

District judge Vanessa Baraitser accepted that Assange suffered from depression and had Asperger's. She said the conditions under which he would be held if sent to the United States would not "prevent Mr Assange from finding a way to commit suicide".

"For these reasons I have decided that extradition would be oppressive by reason of Mr Assange's mental health and I order his discharge," she said.


The US government immediately said it would appeal the decision in the High Court and requested Assange remain in custody.

Assange's mother, Christine, called for a presidential pardon.

"I implore President Trump and President-elect Biden to order them to stand down," she wrote on Twitter. "The decade long process was the punishment. He has suffered enough."

Baraitser did not read out her written judgment but rejected key arguments made by Assange's lawyers that his actions were justified because he was acting as a journalist when he encouraged army intelligence officer Chelsea Manning to hack into US systems and steal hundreds of thousands of secret and diplomatic cables and publish them on the internet, unredacted.

"In the modern era, where 'dumps' of vast amounts of data onto the internet can be carried out by almost anyone, it is difficult to see how a concept of 'responsible journalism' can sensibly be applied," she said.

In her judgment, Baraitser pointed to the condemnation of WikiLeaks issued at the time by former mainstream media partners, including The Guardian and The New York Times, which had both originally collaborated by publishing information deemed to be in the public interest. They had, however, redacted sensitive information.

"In my judgment, Mr Assange’s alleged activities went beyond the mere encouragement of a whistle-blower," Baraitser ruled.

"Free speech does not comprise a 'trump card' even where matters of serious public concern are disclosed and it does not provide an unfettered right for some, like Mr Assange, to decide the fate of others, on the basis of their partially informed assessment of the risks."

She accepted that his conduct was capable of constituting criminal offences in England and Wales, a blow for those who have argued that Assange's actions were those of a free press and therefore should not be prosecuted.

Assange had claimed he was being politically prosecuted by US President Donald Trump but the judge found "little evidence" of this.

She had also rejected his claims that his human rights would be violated if he were sent to the United States to face judicial proceedings and said that he would get a fair hearing.

But she accepted one crucial plank of Assange's case, relating to the near-solitary conditions in which he would be held in a US prison if extradited and the effects on his mental health, noting the Australian's family history of suicide and upholding evidence that he was depressed.

"The overall impression is of a depressed and sometimes despairing man who is generally fearful about his future," she said.

The judgment was published online immediately after she delivered her verdict, and can be read in full here.

The 49-year-old has been held at Belmarsh prison since September 2019. The US wants to try him on 17 charges that carry a total 175 years' jail.

Assange's fiancee and mother of their two children Max and Gabriel, Stella Moris-Smith Robertson, was also present in court to hear the ruling. She arrived at the Old Bailey alongside WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson without making any comment.

The judge had earlier rejected pleas to consider the impact his extradition would have on his young family saying it was "sadly nothing out of the ordinary in the context of extradition proceedings."

Editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks Kristinn Hrafnsson (left) and Julian Assange's girlfriend, Stella Moris-Smith Robertson (centre), arrive for the hearing.

Editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks Kristinn Hrafnsson (left) and Julian Assange's girlfriend, Stella Moris-Smith Robertson (centre), arrive for the hearing.Credit:Getty Images

A small throng of supporters chanted "free Julian Assange" as the pair arrived.

Monday's ruling is a major development in the 10-year saga. Assange spent nearly seven years holed up at the Ecuadorian embassy in London to escape being extradited to Sweden to face allegations of sexual assault.

He was kicked out by his hosts in dramatic scenes in April 2019 when they invited Scotland Yard to enter the embassy and arrest their long-term resident.

Assange has been held in custody ever since.

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2021-01-04 11:01:00Z

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