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Why was Julian Assange wanted in the US?

On the basis of Assange’s mental health alone, the judge rejected the extradition request.

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Court artist sketch of Julian Assange appearing at the Old Bailey (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

Court artist sketch of Julian Assange appearing at the Old Bailey (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

Court artist sketch of Julian Assange appearing at the Old Bailey (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

<strong>What did the US authorities accuse Julian Assange of doing?</strong>

Assange faces an 18-count indictment, alleging a plot to hack computers and a conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information.

It followed the publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents in 2010 and 2011 relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, as well as diplomatic cables.

The charges allege that Assange conspired with US defence analyst Chelsea Manning to unlawfully obtain classified material.

It was also claimed that he published unredacted classified information that put the lives of US sources at risk.

What did his defence say?

Assange’s team argued the publication of classified documents exposed US wrongdoing and were in the public interest.

The WikiLeaks founder denied informants were put in harm’s way or that he plotted hacking with his source Ms Manning.

His legal team claimed the prosecution was politically motivated.

They also argued that Assange faced up to 175 years in jail, under a torturous regime.

They suggested he would be held in segregation under Special Administrative Measures at a supermax jail, conditions usually reserved for convicted terrorists.

The court heard evidence Assange is on the autistic spectrum, has suffered from severe depression and would be a serious suicide risk.

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Supporters of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange celebrate outside the Old Bailey, following the ruling that he cannot be extradited to the United States (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Supporters of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange celebrate outside the Old Bailey, following the ruling that he cannot be extradited to the United States (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

PA

Supporters of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange celebrate outside the Old Bailey, following the ruling that he cannot be extradited to the United States (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

What did Judge Vanessa Baraitser find in her ruling?

The judge said the court trusted the US would protect Assange’s right to free speech.

But she said: “Free speech rights don’t provide unfettered discretion for some, like Mr Assange, to decide the fate of others.”

She said his dealings with Ms Manning “went beyond the mere encouragement of a journalist”.

And there was “insufficient evidence” to find prosecutors were pressurised by the Trump administration.

However, Judge Baraitser sided with Assange’s defence that he was a serious risk of suicide in US custody.

On the basis of Assange’s mental health alone, the judge rejected the extradition request.

Will Assange be freed from prison?

Not immediately. Assange’s legal team will be asked to make a bail application on Wednesday with full details of the situation at Belmarsh jail, where he is being held, and details of any conditions aimed at reassuring the judge he will not abscond.

Even then, the US prosecution could appeal against a decision to grant conditional bail.

What else can the US prosecution do now?

The US prosecution has said it will appeal against the judge’s ruling.

They have two weeks in which to lodge the argument to overturn the decision.

PA


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