FILE PHOTO: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange arrives at the Westminster Magistrates Court, after he was arrested in London, Britain April 11, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay/File Photo

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

A British judge ruled on Monday that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange cannot be extradited to the United States. If he was extradited, Assange would face trial on charges of espionage and hacking government computers. He is facing an 18-count federal indictment.

Judge Vanessa Baraitser rejected the argument that Assange could not get a fair trial in the U.S. and blocked Assange’s extradition on the basis that he would be at extreme risk of suicide. In her decision, she focused on the environment Assange could face in the supermax prison in Florence, Colo., where inmates are kept in lockdown 23 hours a day with almost no human contact. 

The U.S. Department of Justice said it would continue to seek Assange’s extradition. U.S. authorities have 14 days to submit an appeal. It’s unclear whether President-elect Joe Biden’s administration will pursue the prosecution. Assange’s partner, Stella Morris, urged President Donald Trump to pardon Assange.

Rights groups applauded the denial of extradition, but some expressed concern regarding the ruling’s substance. Rebecca Vincent, the director of international campaigns for Reporters Without Borders, said she disagrees with Baraitser that the case was not politically motivated, adding that Assange was targeted for his contributions to journalism. She said that journalists will remain at risk until the free speech issues in the case are addressed.

Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador celebrated the U.K.’s decision and said he was in favor of a full pardon. He also offered political asylum in Mexico. His position stands in stark contrast to his position on other asylum-seekers, such as Central American migrants. Obrador is also not known for being sympathetic to journalists.

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

This section includes an aggregation of articles showing different viewpoints on the topic.

“Victory for Julian”: U.K. Blocks WikiLeaks Founder Assange Extradition to U.S. on Espionage Charges – Democracy Now! – 1/4/2021
In a statement, Amnesty International said, quote, “We welcome the fact that Julian Assange will not be sent to the USA, but this does not absolve the UK from having engaged in this politically-motivated process at the behest of the USA and putting media freedom and freedom of expression on trial,” they said.

U.K. Judge Rejects Assange Extradition, but It’s No Win for Freedom of the Press – Reason – 1/4/2021
Unfortunately, the judge’s explanation is not the victory for press freedom that it should be. It’s instead rooted in concerns that the harshness of America’s prison system might drive a mentally ailing Assange to commit suicide while in detention.

UK Judge Blocks Extradition of WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange – Truthout – 1/4/2021
Assange’s fiancee, Stella Morris, called the ruling a “victory for Julian,” but stressed that their struggles were far from over. “Let’s not forget: the indictment in the U.S. has not been dropped,” Morris said in a statement following the ruling. “We are extremely concerned that the U.S. government has decided to appeal this decision and continues to want to punish Julian and make him disappear into the deepest darkest hole of the U.S. prison system for the rest of his life.”

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s extradition to US denied by British judge – Fox News – 1/4/2021
U.S. 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. 

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

This section includes an aggregation of tweets showing different viewpoints on the topic.

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