A London judge ruled last Wednesday not to release Wikileaks founder Julian Assange on bail. The 49-year-old was deemed a risk for fleeing the jurisdiction by the judge, who cited a 2012 incident where Assange skipped bail to avoid previous extradition proceedings in Sweden. Assange is currently incarcerated at a London prison where he awaits the result of his extradition case. If extradited, Assange would face 17 counts of infringing upon the Espionage Act and an additional charge for conspiring to hack a government computer.
Judge Vanessa Baraitser’s ruling denied Assange’s bail request on the grounds that the Wikileaks founder is at extreme risk of suicide, rendering formal extradition impossible. In the ruling, Judge Bataitser stated that “[extradition] would be unjust and oppressive by reason of Mr. Assange’s mental condition,” pointing to the inadequate, abusive conditions he would most likely be held under in a United States prison. While Judge Bataitser believes he would be given a fair trial in the U.S., she ruled that the risk of suicide in a U.S. prison would be too great to justify an extradition. As it stands, lawyers for the U.S. government continue to appeal Baraitser’s decision and fight to have Assange appear in court on U.S. soil.
Julian Assange’s legal troubles began back in 2010, when his whistle-blowing website, Wikileaks, published a video showing a U.S. military helicopter attack in Iraq that killed 18 civilians. That same year, the website published hundreds of thousands of classified documents leaked by former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning. The documents revealed unreported mass casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq, among other war atrocities. Later on, in August 2010, Assange was accused of rape in Sweden but fled the country and received asylum in Ecuador’s London embassy beginning in 2012. In 2017, when a new president took office in Ecuador, Assange’s relationship with the country deteriorated, his asylum was revoked, and Assange was arrested by London police in 2017. Now, the 49-year-old remains incarcerated in London as two countries continue to dispute the location of his incarceration and trial.
By Max Boesch-Powers