UK Judge Denies Bail For WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange
A U.K. judge on Wednesday denied bail for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after he avoided being extradited to the United States.
District Judge Vanessa Baraitser made the ruling at Westminster Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday, citing the U.S. government’s appeal against a decision to block his extradition.
“I am satisfied that there are substantial grounds for believing that if Mr. Assange is released today he would fail to surrender to court to face the appeal proceedings,” she said.
Baraitser said Monday at the Old Bailey court that, due to his real risk of suicide, the 49-year-old should not be extradited by “reason of mental health.” But she rejected his legal team’s arguments that the prosecution was politically motivated or a threat to freedom of speech.
Assange is wanted to face an 18-count indictment, alleging a plot to hack computers and a conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defense information.
The case followed WikiLeaks’ publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents in 2010 and 2011 relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, as well as diplomatic cables.
Prosecutors say Assange helped defense analyst Chelsea Manning breach the Espionage Act in unlawfully obtaining material, that he was complicit in hacking by others, and that he published classified information that put the lives of U.S. informants in danger.
Assange denies plotting with Manning to crack an encrypted password on U.S. Department of Defense computers and says there is no evidence that anyone’s safety was put at risk.
His lawyers had said he faced up to 175 years in jail if convicted, although the U.S. government claimed the sentence was more likely to be between four and six years.
Assange has been held in high-security Belmarsh prison since he was carried out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London by police before being arrested for breaching his bail conditions in April 2019.
The defense legal team argued that the U.S. prosecution is political and said Assange, who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and severe depression, would be at high risk of suicide if he were extradited.
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