WASHINGTON: The United States will continue to seek WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange‘s extradition, the US Department of Justice said on Monday after a British judge ruled that he should not be extradited to face criminal charges.
“While we are extremely disappointed in the court’s ultimate decision, we are gratified that the United States prevailed on every point of law raised. In particular, the court rejected all of Mr. Assange’s arguments regarding political motivation, political offense, fair trial, and freedom of speech. We will continue to seek Mr. Assange’s extradition to the United States,” department spokesman Marc Raimondi said in a statement.
Earlier, a British judge ruled that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should not be extradited to the United States to face criminal charges including breaking a spying law, saying his mental health problems meant he would be at risk of suicide.
The United States accuses Australian-born Assange, 49, of 18 offences relating to the release by WikiLeaks of vast troves of confidential US military records and diplomatic cables which it says put lives in danger.
Assange’s lawyers will seek bail on Wednesday for their client, who has spent most of the last decade either in prison or self-imposed confinement. His legal team had argued the entire prosecution was politically motivated, powered by US President Donald Trump’s administration, and that Assange‘s extradition would pose a severe threat to the work of journalists.
While Judge Vanessa Baraitser rejected submissions that extradition should be barred because it would breach press freedom or Assange’s freedom of speech, she said there was a real risk he would commit suicide if he were held in a U.S. maximum security jail.
Assange, she said, suffered at times from severe depression and had been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and autism. Half a razor blade was found in his London prison cell in May 2019, and he had told medical staff about his suicidal thoughts and made plans to end his life.
“I find that Mr. Assange’s risk of committing suicide, if an extradition order were to be made, to be substantial,” Baraitser said in her ruling, delivered at London’s Old Bailey court.
“The overall impression is of a depressed and sometimes despairing man, who is genuinely fearful about his future,” she added, saying he had made regular calls from jail to the Samaritans charity.
Wearing a navy suit and a mask, Assange showed little emotion at the ruling. Outside court, his partner Stella Moris, with whom he had two children while seeking asylum in London’s Ecuadorean Embassy, said the decision was a victory but the threat of extradition was still hanging over him.