Julian Assange cannot be extradited to the US to face charges of espionage and of hacking government computers, a British judge has decided.
Lawyer for US authorities are to appeal against the ruling, which was delivered at the central criminal court by the district judge, Vanessa Baraitser.
Delivering her ruling the judge said said the WikiLeaks founder was likely to be held in conditions of isolation in a so-called supermax prison in the US and procedures described by US authorities would not prevent him from potentially finding a way to take his own life.
“I find that the mental condition of Mr Assange is such that it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America,” she said.
Assange has been taken back to Belmarsh prison ahead of an application on Wednesday for his release on bail, which will refer to conditions at the high-security prison in south London against the backdrop of the worsening Covid-19 pandemic.
The judge’s decision, focusing on Assange’s health, came after she knocked down one argument after another made last year by Assange’s lawyers. Sending him to the US would not breach a bar on extradition for “political offences” she said, and she had no reason to doubt that “the usual constitutional and procedural protections” would be applied to a trial he might face in the US.
But she accepted the evidence of prominent medical experts, including details of how Assange had suffered from depression while in prison in London. “The overall impression is of a depressed and sometimes despairing man who is genuinely depressed about his future,” said Baraitser.
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 say 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.