The decision dragged on for a long time, now a court in London has decided: Julian Assange may not be extradited to the USA. He faces up to 175 years imprisonment there.
A court in London rejected the US extradition request for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange on Monday. Judge Vanessa Baraitser based her decision on Assange’s mental health and the conditions of detention that would await him in the United States. It is to be expected that he will commit suicide in solitary confinement.
The US was expected to appeal the verdict. The 49-year-old would have threatened up to 175 years imprisonment in the USA if convicted. Mexico meanwhile offered Assange political asylum.
The US judiciary is accusing the native Australian of stealing and publishing secret material from US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan together with whistleblower Chelsea Manning. The 49-year-old put the lives of US informants at risk, the allegation. His supporters, however, see him as an investigative journalist who has brought war crimes to light.
Snowden: Most Dangerous Threat to Press Freedom in Decades
Whistleblower Edward Snowden praised the verdict. On Twitter he wrote: “Many thanks to everyone who has fought against one of the most dangerous threats to press freedom in decades.”
The German Association of Journalists (DJV) reacted “with joy and relief”. The judge’s verdict is an important success “for all journalists who work with explosive material that powerful people are not interested in publishing,” said the DJV Federal Chairman Frank Überall. The German Union of Journalists (dju) emphasized that a decision to extradite would be tantamount to “declaring the rule of law bankrupt”.
Judge: The case is not politically motivated
The foreign policy spokesman for the Left parliamentary group, Gregor Gysi, said that the rejection of extradition “is an important step towards safeguarding the rule of law, in the interests of freedom of the press and towards democratic stability”. Assange must be fired as soon as possible.
However, the judge made it clear that the case was not politically motivated. Assange’s behavior went beyond the normal behavior of an investigative journalist. He was aware of the danger to informants when he did not black out their names in the published documents. “The right to freedom of expression does not give people like Mr Assange unlimited discretion to decide the fate of others,” said the judge.
No fair trial feared in the US
The legal dispute is likely to continue in the UK for the time being, as the decision can be appealed. After a further instance, the proceedings could go to the British Supreme Court and finally deal with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Human rights activists, politicians and organizations such as Reporters Without Borders had previously warned that Assange would not get a fair trial in the US.
The Wikileaks founder had been in the maximum security prison Belmarsh in the southeast of the British capital for around a year and a half. In view of the corona pandemic, he was only allowed to receive a very limited number of visitors, and phone calls outside were not unlimited. Because of a corona outbreak in prison, an entire block was temporarily quarantined. Family members have long had concerns about Assange’s mental and health condition.
After Monday’s decision in London, Mexico offered Julian Assange political asylum. The Foreign Ministry should initiate the appropriate procedure and inform the British government about the asylum offer, said Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to journalists on Monday.
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