A London court will consider on Wednesday a petition from the defense of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to release him on bail. The meeting will be held at the Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London, chaired by Judge Vanessa Baraitser.
According to the defense, she has “serious reasons” for Assange to be released from Belmarsh prison, where he has been held for the past 20 months. The Australian found himself in this penitentiary institution immediately after in April 2019, Ecuador, in whose embassy in London he took refuge for seven years, denied him asylum. The defense intends to present arguments in favor of the fact that Assange this time will not attempt to escape from justice.
Court against extradition
The bail issue was made possible after Judge Baraitser spoke out against the extradition of the Australian to the United States on January 4, where 18 criminal charges were brought against him. Assange, in particular, is charged with crimes related to the largest case of disclosure of classified information in US history. On the aggregate of the charges brought against, the WikiLeaks founder faces up to 175 years in prison.
The judge ruled that the extradition of Assange to the United States would be unlawful, as the autistic and clinically depressed founder of WikiLeaks is ready to commit suicide and will carry out his plan if he ends up in an American prison. The judge’s conclusions are based on the evaluations of psychologists and experts. They worked with Assange and gave their assessment of the conditions of detention in American maximum-security prisons, where they have little or no opportunity to communicate with other people. According to the judge, a razor blade was found in Assange’s cell, and he also managed to draw up a will.
At the same time, Judge Baraitser rejected all other arguments of the defense and fully supported the position of the American authorities. According to her, the accusations against Assange are not inappropriate, British law allows him to be extradited even if he is prosecuted for political reasons, and in the United States he can count on a fair and impartial examination of his case. She also stressed that the actions of which Assange is accused cannot be considered journalistic activity, and the principles of freedom of speech did not give him “unlimited ability to decide what he would publish” at his discretion.
The US Department of Justice expressed disappointment with the verdict, saying it would continue to seek the extradition of Assange. The prosecution has two weeks to file an appeal, which began on Monday.
Regardless of today’s decision, the end will not be put in this matter. The possibility of the parties to challenge the decision of the judges in various instances means that the case of the 49-year-old founder of WikiLeaks could be considered for years.
How Assange ended up in prison
In 2006, Assange founded the WikiLeaks website, which publishes classified information on the activities of a number of governments, including the United States. Fearing extradition to the United States from Sweden, where two women accused him of sexual harassment and rape, in 2012 he violated the conditions of bail and sought asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he remained continuously for nearly seven years. After being expelled from the Ecuadorian Embassy, Assange was arrested by the police for failure to appear in a London court on a 2012 warrant, as well as on the basis of an extradition request sent by Washington to the British authorities in 2018.
After his arrest in 2019, a London court sentenced the Australian to 50 weeks in prison for violating the terms of bail. He has already served this term.