UK High Court overturns ruling not to extradite Julian Assange
London, UK – The US government won its legal bid to overturn a judge's decision not to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from the UK at the High Court in London on Friday.
Assange (50) is wanted in the United States on charges of alleged conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defense information following WikiLeaks' publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
US authorities brought a High Court challenge against a January ruling by then-district judge Vanessa Baraitser that Assange should not be sent to the US in which she cited a real and "oppressive" risk of suicide.
After a two-day hearing in October, Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, sitting with Lord Justice Holroyde, ruled in favor of the US on Friday. The senior judges found that the judge had based her decision on the risk of Assange being held in highly restrictive prison conditions if extradited.
However, the US authorities later gave assurances that Assange would not face those strictest measures either pre-trial or post-conviction unless he committed an act in the future that required them.
Lord Burnett said: "That risk is in our judgment excluded by the assurances which are offered. It follows that we are satisfied that, if the assurances had been before the judge, she would have answered the relevant question differently."
It is expected that Assange will attempt to bring an appeal over this latest decision.
US says Assange's mental illness not enough to stop extradition
The High Court was previously told that blocking Assange's removal due to his mental health risks amounted to "rewarding fugitives for their flight."
James Lewis QC, for the US, said the district judge based her decision on Assange's "intellectual ability to circumvent suicide preventative measures," which risked becoming a "trump card" for anyone who wanted to oppose their extradition regardless of any resources the other state might have.
The US authorities also argued Assange is well enough to be extradited, with Lewis telling the court his mental illness "does not even come close" to being severe enough to prevent his extradition.
Assange has been held in London's Belmarsh Prison since 2019 after he was carried out of the Ecuadorian embassy by police before being arrested for breaching his bail conditions.
He had entered the building in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden to face sex offense allegations, which he has always denied and were eventually dropped.
Cover photo: IMAGO / Matrix