London Court ruled that extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the U.S. is impossible, the British media reported on Monday.
The U.S. side, accusing Assange of espionage and hacking, is expected to appeal the decision.
The court motivated its decision by concerns for the mental health of the WikiLeaks founder. “I believe that Mr. Assange’s mental state is so bad that it would be wrong to extradite him to the United States,” Judge Vanessa Barightser said.
She explained that in the U.S. Assange would have been placed in the maximum security prison, which would have been detrimental to the mental health of the founder of WikiLeaks. According to the judge, Assange, who regularly suffers from depression, would then have enough motivation in prison to commit suicide. In addition, she concluded that the defendant was intelligent enough to carry out what he intended to do, even with serious supervision over him.
At the same time, Bariteser rejected the view of his defense that extradition would be a violation of Assange’s freedom of speech. The judge also assured that she has no doubts about the ability of the American judicial system to guarantee all the rights of the accused in the case.
The appeal, as the media noted even before the court verdict, could lead to many months or even years of litigation.
If extradition to the U.S. does take place, Assange faces up to 175 years in prison.
The court in London began its consideration of the Assange case in February 2020. At that time, the court began examining arguments of lawyers representing the U.S. authorities who seek the extradition of the WikiLeaks founder for trial on 18 counts.
After a pause the hearings were to resume in May 2020, but they were postponed because of the pandemic coronavirus COVID-19. As a result, hearings resumed in early September at London’s Old Bailey Central Criminal Court and ended in October.
Assange is currently being held in Belmarsh prison (London) for violating his bail conditions.
Nevertheless, many prominent people have requested a pardon for Assange. Sources report that President Trump is willing to take such a step.