UK judge refuses extradition of WikiLeaks founder Assange

A British judge has rejected the United States’ request to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to face espionage charges, saying it would be “oppressive” because of his mental health, AP reported. District Judge Vanessa Baraitser said Monday Assange was likely to commit suicide if sent to the US. The US government said it would appeal the decision.

The US prosecutors have indicted Assange 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 sentence of 175 years in prison.

Lawyers for the 49-year-old Australian argue that he was acting as a journalist and is entitled to First Amendment protections of freedom of speech for publishing leaked documents that exposed US military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Assange’s partner, Stella Moris, who had two sons with him while he lived in the embassy, has appealed to President Donald Trump to pardon Assange before Trump leaves office on 20 January.

The prosecution of Assange has been condemned by journalists and human rights groups, who say it undermines free speech around the world.

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