A London court has blocked the extradition of Julian Assange to the US to stand trial on criminal charges, on the grounds that the move would put him at risk of suicide.
A judge at Westminster magistrates court ruled that Mr Assange should not be sent to the US to face trial on one charge of computer hacking and 17 charges of violating the US’s 1917 Espionage Act, relating to one of the biggest leaks of classified material in history.
If found guilty Mr Assange, who has been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, faces up to 175 years in jail. The US government has already indicated that it will appeal.
District Judge Vanessa Baraitser blocked Mr Assange’s extradition on the grounds that he would be held in harsh US prison conditions and “the risk that Mr Assange will commit suicide is a substantial one.”
“I am satisfied that, in these harsh conditions, Mr Assange’s mental health would deteriorate causing him to commit suicide . . . 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,” the judge ruled.
The US charges stem from WikiLeaks’ publication of a huge cache of secret documents passed to him by Chelsea Manning, the former US military intelligence analyst.
The trove, which includes 90,000 activity reports relating to the war in Afghanistan, 400,000 relating to the Iraq war and 250,000 US diplomatic cables, was one of the largest ever leaks of classified material and caused considerable embarrassment to the US government.