Judge Rejects US' Request To Extradite WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange
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A British judge has rejected the United States' request to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange so that he can face espionage charges, the Associated Press reports.
District Judge Vanessa Baraitser said it would be 'oppressive' because of Assange's mental health, arguing that he was likely to commit suicide if sent to the US.
The US government has said it would appeal the decision.
Prosecutors in the US have indicted Assange, 49, on 17 espionage charges and one charge of computer misuse.
The charges relate to WikiLeaks' publication of classified American military documents a decade ago - which exposed US military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan - and carry a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison.
His prosecution has been condemned by human rights groups and journalists around the globe, who believe it underminds free speech.
Assange's lawyers also argue he was acting as a journalist, and is there fore entitled to First Amendment protections of freedom of speech.
Baraitser rejected claims by the defence that Assange was protected by free speech guarantees - saying his 'conduct, if proved, would therefore amount to offenses in this jurisdiction that would not be protected by his right to freedom of speech'.
However, she said Assange suffered from clinical depression, and that this would be exacerbated by the isolation he would likely encounter in prison over in the States.
Baraitser added that Assange possessed the 'intellect and determination' to circumvent any suicide prevention measures the authorities might take.
According to the AP, today's decision is a 'major moment' in Assange's decade-long legal limbo in Britain.
WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson previously said in a statement: "The mere fact that this case has made it to court, let alone gone on this long, is an historic, large-scale attack on freedom of speech.
"This is a fight that affects each and every person's right to know and is being fought collectively."
Ahead of the ruling today, Assange's partner Stella Morris - who is the mother of his two children - said extraditing him would be 'so manifestly unjust that it seems impossible'
She wrote in the Daily Mail: "It is a fight for our family, to give our sons the right to grow up with their father. But it is also a fight for justice and a fight for everyone's right to live in a free society."
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Topics: UK News