Updated: February 24, 2021
A British judge on Monday denied a request from the United States to extradite Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. The U.S. government says it will appeal the decision.
The judge argued that the 49-year-old Australian whistleblower was likely to commit suicide if sent overseas to face espionage charges.
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District Judge Vanessa Baraitser also described the extradition request as “oppressive” because of Assange’s mental health.
Assange has been indicted by U.S. prosecutors on 17 espionage charges and one charge of computer misuse over Wikileaks’ publication of leaked military and diplomatic documents a decade ago. The charges carry a maximum of 175 years in prison.
Assange’s lawyers argue that he was acting as a journalist and is entitled to First Amendment protections of freedom of speech after he published leaked documents that exposed U.S. military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The judge, however, rejected claims by the defense that Assange was protected by free-speech guarantees.
The judge said Assange’s conduct, “if proved, would therefore amount to offenses in this jurisdiction that would not be protected by his right to freedom of speech.”