UK court blocks Assange extradition to US
A British judge on Monday ruled that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should not be extradited to the United States to face espionage charges for publishing hundreds of thousands of secret documents online.
District Judge Vanessa Baraitser said the 49-year-old Australian publisher was a suicide risk if he was sent into custody across the Atlantic.
"For this reason I have decided extradition would be oppressive by reason of mental harm and I order his discharge," she added.
Outside the Old Bailey court in central London, his supporters who had gathered since early morning erupted in cheers and shouted "Free Assange!"
Assange and his legal team have long argued that the protracted case, which has become a cause celebre for media freedom, was politically motivated.
Snowden welcomes rejection of Assange extradition
Fugitive US whistleblower Edward Snowden said Monday he hoped the British refusal to extradite Julian Assange would mark "the end" of attempts to see the WikiLeaks founder face espionage charges in the United States.
Reacting to the news, former US intelligence contractor Snowden tweeted: "Let this be the end of it."
Snowden is himself wanted in the United States on espionage charges after he leaked information showing that agents from the National Security Agency were collecting telephone records from millions of US citizens.
He has been living in exile in Russia since 2013 and last year announced he intends to become a dual US-Russian citizen.
Assange faced 18 charges in the United States relating to the 2010 release by WikiLeaks of 500,000 secret files detailing aspects of military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.
If convicted in the United States, Assange faced up to 175 years in jail.
Defence witnesses called during the hearing said his history of depression meant he would be a suicide risk if sent to the United States and locked up in a maximum security prison.
He has also complained of hearing imaginary voices and music during his detention.
Assange has a respiratory condition that makes him more vulnerable to Covid-19, which has infected several inmates at the high-security prison where he has been held in London.
"In pardoning Mr Assange, Mr President, you would send a clear message of justice, truth and humanity to the American people and to the world," he wrote in December.
"You would rehabilitate a courageous man who has suffered injustice, persecution and humiliation for more than a decade, simply for telling the truth."
The prospect of a possible pardon from the outgoing US leader has gained ground following a slew of others granted to a number of Trump's political allies.
Moris, with whom Assange has two young sons, also appealed to Trump directly.
The UK hearing was told Trump promised to pardon Assange if he testified Russia hacked into the computer servers of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) during the 2016 election campaign.
WikiLeaks later published the emails, which proved politically damaging to Trump's Democratic rival Hillary Clinton before the vote.
Washington claims Assange helped intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to steal the 2010 documents before exposing confidential sources around the world.
After Sweden first issued an arrest warrant for Assange in 2010 over allegations of sexual assault, he sought asylum in Ecuador's embassy in London, where he remained from 2012 until 2019.
In April 2019, Ecuador, by then ruled by right-wing President Lenin Moreno, revoked his citizenship. British police dragged Assange out of the embassy.
The earlier Swedish assault investigation against him was later dropped due to lack of evidence.