Westminster Magistrates’ Court Judge Vanessa Baraitser blocked Julian Assange’s extradition to the United States Monday, on the grounds that psychiatric testimony indicated a “substantial risk” that the WikiLeaks founder would kill himself in response to the harsh conditions he is apt to face in U.S. custody.
Belmarsh Prison, South-East London
Assange has been on remand in Belmarsh prison, South-East London, since 2019 awaiting a hearing for political extradition to the United States. Yesterday’s decision threw out the U.S. government’s request putting an almost final nail in the coffin of the 10-year long campaign by the U.S. government to criminalize reporting critical of its actions. Assange stays for the moment in the high-security Belmarsh Prison, as the U.S. is likely to appeal against the verdict, while he can make a fresh application for bail.
Judge Baraitser ruled that while U.S. prosecutors met Assange’s tests to be extradited for trial, she was discharging him because she found the U.S. was incapable of preventing him from attempting suicide. Thus, she accepted the U.S. Justice Department’s argument that imprisoning someone for publishing information the government does not want the public to see is consistent with freedom of expression. She emphasized that Assange is accused of posting un-redacted documents without regard to the danger that could pose to U.S. informants in Afghanistan, pointing out that the U.S. Justice Department’s case is expressly brought on the basis that “Mr. Assange disclosed materials that no responsible journalist or publisher would have disclosed.”
The 18-count Assange indictment, which the Justice Department unveiled in May 2019, is based on the disclosure of Defense Department files and State Department cables that detailed Guantanamo Bay detainees’ treatment,