British Judge Denies U.S. Request to Extradite WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange

A United States request to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been denied by a British judge.

In a Monday decision published online, judge Vanessa Baraitser said that while she has "no reason to doubt" that he would receive a fair trial, "it would be oppressive to extradite him" to the U.S. given the isolation and conditions he would likely be held on. Baraitser ruled that it would pose a threat to Assange's wellbeing.

"I accept that oppression as a bar to extradition requires a high threshold," writes Baraitser. "I also accept that there is a strong public interest in giving effect to treaty obligations and that this is an important factor to have in mind. However, I am satisfied that, in these harsh conditions, Mr. Assange's mental health would deteriorate causing him to commit suicide with the 'single minded determination' of his autism spectrum disorder."

In April 2019, Assange, 49, was arrested in London and pulled from the Ecuadorian Embassy where he had been living in asylum for seven years. At the time, U.K. authorities said he faced U.S. extradition for alleged "computer-related offenses." His arrest was made possible after Ecuador's government withdrew its asylum and invited in London's Metropolitan Police.

While leading WikiLeaks, Assange published a vast amount of classified or otherwise secret material from the American government and other high-powered officials around the world — in the name of utter transparency.

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

The U.S. Department of Justice initially said he is suspected of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion and, if found guilty, faces up to five years in prison. According to CNN, in May 2019, the DOJ further charged Assange with 17 counts under the Espionage Act. If convicted, the combined maximum sentencing would be 175 years in jail.

Assange's fiancée, Stella Moris — who shares her two sons, Gabriel, 3, and Max, 22 months, with him — wrote a recent essay published by the Daily Mail, claiming that if Assange were extradited, he would risk "being buried in the deepest, darkest corner of the U.S. prison system for the rest of his life."

"Julian embarrassed Washington and this is their revenge," she said.

The U.S. crime of which he is accused is connected to the 2010 release of classified information facilitated by Chelsea Manning, then working as an intelligence analyst for the Army.

WikiLeaks' methods are also extremely controversial. While some of its revelations of hypocrisy or government misbehavior have been praised, WikiLeaks has been severely criticized for releasing damaging emails about Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign which American authorities believe were first stolen by Russians. (Assange has disputed Russia was his source.)

Source: Read Full Article