WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange could walk free from jail within the next week following his extraordinary victory in court today.
District Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled at the Old Bailey on Monday that due to the real risk of suicide, Assange must not be extradited to the United States by “reason of mental health”.
Following the bombshell ruling, Assange’s lawyers are scheduled to return to the court on Wednesday for a bail application. If successful, Assange could walk away a free man.
Telegraph.co.uk reports: Having been remanded in custody, Assange will remain at the high-security Belmarsh Prison and the US government has indicated its intent to appeal.
Assange is wanted to face an 18-count indictment, alleging a plot to hack computers and a conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information.
The case followed WikiLeaks’ publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents in 2010 and 2011 relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, as well as diplomatic cables.
Prosecutors say Assange helped US defence analyst Chelsea Manning breach the Espionage Act in unlawfully obtaining material, was complicit in hacking by others, and published classified information that put the lives of US informants in danger.
Assange denies plotting with Manning to crack an encrypted password on US Department of Defence computers and says there is no evidence that anyone’s safety was put at risk.
His legal team argued that the prosecution is political and said Assange, who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and severe depression, is a high suicide risk if he is extradited.
In her judgment, Judge Baraitser referred to evidence of Assange’s mental state.
She said that “facing conditions of near total isolation” in US custody, she was satisfied that authorities there would not be able to prevent Assange from “finding a way to commit suicide”.
Judge Baraitser made reference to Jeffrey Epstein in her summary, and said: “Others have succeeded in recent years in committing suicide at jails… Jeffrey Epstein committed suicide at the MCC jail in August 2019.”
Assange’s lawyers had said he faced up to 175 years in jail if convicted, although the US government said the sentence was more likely to be between four and six years.