A judge in the United Kingdom on Monday ruled against a request to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States.
District Judge Vanessa Baraitser rejected assertions that Assange was a political prisoner, The Associated Press reported, but said he would pose a risk to himself while detained in the United States.
“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,” Baraitser said.
The judge described Assange as “a depressed and sometimes despairing man” who possesses the “intellect and determination” required to commit suicide if turned over to law enforcement officials in the U.S. despite any efforts to keep him alive.
Assange was indicted on more than a dozen counts of espionage and another charge of computer misuse after publishing classified American military and intelligence documents years ago.
He has argued he was acting as a journalist in publishing the documents and should be protected under the First Amendment. He was arrested in London in 2010 at the request of Swedish officials, who at the time said they wanted to investigate him in regards to accusations of rape and sexual assault in that country. The Australian was holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London until 2019, when he was evicted and immediately arrested by British police.
Assange’s lawyer, Barry Pollack, told the AP his team was thrilled about Baraitser’s decision.
“The effort by the United States to prosecute Julian Assange and seek his extradition was ill-advised from the start,” Pollack said. “We hope that after consideration of the U.K. court’s ruling, the United States will decide not to pursue the case further.”
Officials in the U.S. plan to appeal Baraitser’s decision.