London, United Kingdom:
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s lawyers will argue Wednesday that he should be bailed out of a UK prison pending Washington appeal against the decision not to extradite him to the US.
A judge in London blocked his extradition on Monday on charges of posting hundreds of thousands of classified documents online.
The United States, calling the verdict “extremely disappointing,” has announced that it will appeal and has two weeks to file its reasons.
Assange remained in the maximum security prison at Belmarsh in south east London until the final hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in central London.
The 49-year-old Australian publisher’s longstanding legal troubles have become a special occasion for media freedom, despite the judge’s view that he had a case to answer in the United States.
An earlier bail hearing in March was told that he should be released as he was vulnerable to Covid-19 behind bars. However, the argument was rejected on the grounds that he was likely to flee.
He was arrested in 2019 after seeking refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London in 2012 after Sweden issued an arrest warrant on allegations of sexual assault.
British police pulled Assange from the embassy in April 2019 after Ecuador revoked his citizenship.
He was arrested for bailing bail in connection with the Swedish case, which was later dropped for lack of evidence, and was sentenced to 50 weeks in what the UN described as “disproportionate”.
He remained in Belmarsh until the American extradition request was completed.
– “Oppressive” extradition –
Assange is still being wanted on 18 charges in the US – with a maximum sentence of 175 years – related to WikiLeaks’ 2010 disclosure of 500,000 classified files detailing aspects of military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Washington claims he helped intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal the 2010 documents before revealing confidential sources around the world.
Assange and his lawyers have long argued that the lengthy case is politically motivated.
District Judge Vanessa Baraitser said Monday that Assange was “well aware” of the implications of his disclosure of classified documents and that his actions went “far beyond the role of a journalist.”
But she said his mental health was likely to deteriorate in the US penitentiary “causing him to commit suicide.”
She denied statements by US experts that Assange would be protected from self-harm, noting that others like the embarrassed US financier Jeffrey Epstein had managed to commit suicide in custody despite supervision.
“Because of this, I have decided that the extradition for psychological harm would be oppressive and I order his release,” she said.
The UN torture rapporteur, Nils Melzer, welcomed the blocking of the extradition of Assange, but added that he was concerned, “The verdict confirms the entire, very dangerous rationale underlying the US indictment,” which “is effectively one Criminalization of National Security Journalism Equals “.
“Mr. Assange must now be released immediately, rehabilitated and compensated for the abuse and arbitrariness he was exposed to,” added the UN expert.
Following the verdict, Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez offered Obrador Assange political asylum.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Tuesday Assange would be “free to return to Australia” once the litigation against him was resolved.
(This story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)