Julian Assange cannot be extradited to US, British judge rules

Julian Assange's lawyers have argued that the charges against him are political

Julian Assange
Julian Assange

Julian Assange cannot be extradited to the US to face espionage charges, and of hacking government computers, a British judge has decided.

The ruling was delivered at the central criminal court by the district judge, Vanessa Baraitser.

An appeal is expected to be mounted against the ruling, which comes after weeks of hearings at the Old Bailey last year and campaigning by Assange supporters and others who have decried US charges against him as an attack on press freedom.

The case against the 49-year-old relates to WikiLeaks’s publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents about the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, as well as diplomatic cables, in 2010 and 2011.

Prosecutors said Assange helped the US defence analyst Chelsea Manning breach the US Espionage Act, was complicit in hacking by others and published classified information that endangered informants.

Assange, however, denied plotting with Manning to crack an encrypted password on US computers and says there is no evidence anyone’s safety was compromised.

His lawyers have argued that the prosecution is politically motivated and that he is being pursued because WikiLeaks published US government documents that revealed evidence of war crimes and human rights abuses.

Assange has been in custody in Britain since April 2019, when he was removed from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he had taken refuge seven years previously to avoid extradition to Sweden over a sexual assault case that was subsequently dropped.

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