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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange could be freed THIS WEEK as he wins fight to avoid extradition to the US to face spying charges after British judge says he would be a suicide risk in an American jail

 Julian Assange cannot be extradited to the US to face spying charges due to the risk of him taking his own life in an American jail, a judge sensationally ruled today - raising the prospect he could be freed this week.

The WikiLeaks founder won his high-profile legal battle against US officials who wanted to put him on trial for conspiring to hack government computers and violating an espionage law by releasing confidential cables.

The 48-year-old, sat in a blue suit with crossed legs, wiped his brow after the decision was announced, while his fiancee, Stella Moris - with whom he has two young sons - wept.


Assange's lawyers will return to the Old Bailey on Wednesday for a bail application, and if they successful, he could be a free man immediately afterwards.

It is likely he would avoid travelling to other countries that have an extradition treaty with the US to avoid the risk of being arrested again.

But having been remanded in custody, it is unlikely he will be freed from high-security HMP Belmarsh on Wednesday given the US government's intent to appeal. American officials have 14 days to state their grounds.

If convicted in the US, the activist would have been held in isolation at the notorious Supermax jail in Colorado, which has been described by a former warden as a 'clean version of hell' and a 'fate worse than death'.

Judge Vanessa Baraitser said there was an 'unmanageable high risk' of Assange taking his own life if he was housed amid the grim conditions as she revealed he has autism, Asperger's and a severe depressive disorder.

She accepted the evidence of medical experts who revealed that Assange had spoken openly about suicide while in Belmarsh and had prepared for it by writing a will. A razor blade was also found in his cell. 

Assange's supporters were overjoyed at the decision not to extradite him to the United States but expressed dismay that the ruling was made on health grounds rather than in defence of freedom of expression. 

The WikiLeaks founder today (when he is pictured) won his high-profile legal battle against US officials who wanted to put him on trial for helping hack government computers and violating an espionage law by releasing confidential cables

The WikiLeaks founder today (when he is pictured) won his high-profile legal battle against US officials who wanted to put him on trial for helping hack government computers and violating an espionage law by releasing confidential cables

Assange's supporters cheered and hugged outside the Old Bailey after the judge revealed she was blocking Assange's extradition

Assange's fiancee Stella Moris, seen outside the Old Bailey today, has said that sending her lover to the US would be an 'unthinkable travesty'

Assange, 49, faces an 18-count indictment, alleging a plot to hack computers and a conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information

Assange, 49, faces an 18-count indictment, alleging a plot to hack computers and a conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information 

Elation from Julian Assange supporters as extradition denied
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His mother Christine urged the US not to appeal, saying her son had suffered enough. 

She tweeted: 'UK Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled against extraditing my son Julian to the US on medical grounds.

'US prosecutors state they will appeal. I implore Pres Trump & Pres elect Biden to order them to stand down. The decade long process was the punishment. He has suffered enough.'    

Conservative MP David Davis said: 'Good news Julian Assange's extradition has been blocked. Extradition treaties should not be used for political prosecutions.'

The decision was also welcomed by Labour MPs, including Richard Burgon and the former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott. 

Mr Burgon said: 'It is entirely right that Julian Assange will not be extradited to the US. Julian Assange would have been extradited because, as a journalist, he dared to expose US war crimes. 

'Any extradition would have been an unprecedented attack on press freedom.' 

Ms Abbott called the decision an 'excellent ruling by the British judge'. She added: 'Congratulations to all the dogged campaigners on Assange's behalf.' 


But the journalist Glenn Greenwald added a note of caution, saying the judge had endorsed most of the arguments put forward by the US in favour of extradition - including dismissing the idea that it was an attack on freedom of speech. 

He said: 'This wasn't a victory for press freedom. Quite the contrary: the judge made clear she believed there are grounds to prosecute Assange in connection with the 2010 publication. It was, instead, an indictment of the insanely oppressive US prison system for security 'threats.' 

Amnesty International tweeted: 'We welcome the fact that Julian Assange will not be sent to the USA, but this does not absolve the UK from having engaged in this politically-motivated process at the behest of the USA and putting media freedom and freedom of expression on trial.' 

Judge Baraitser ruled that Assange risked being held under Special Administrative Measures (Sams), which would have seen him in solitary confinement with limited access to family and only two phone calls per month.

She said: 'Faced with the conditions of near total isolation without the protective factors which limited his risk at HMP Belmarsh, I am satisfied the procedures described by the US will not prevent Mr Assange from finding a way to commit suicide and for this reason I have decided extradition would be oppressive by reason of mental harm and I order his discharge.

'Despite his lighter spirit at times, he's a depressed and sometimes despairing man who is genuinely fearful of his future. He represents an unmanageable high risk of suicide, both in Belmarsh and the US.'

She revealed that in 1991 Mr Assange had tried to take his own life and that there was a history of depression in the family. His maternal grandmother and uncle both died by suicide, and Assange phoned the Samaritans most nights while in jail.     

Assange supporters celebrate as judge refuses to extradite him
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Assange supporters celebrating outside the Old Bailey today after he was spared from being sent for trial in the United States

Assange supporters celebrating outside the Old Bailey today after he was spared from being sent for trial in the United States  

Piers Corbyn (left) outside the Old Bailey today alongside a crowd of pro-Assange protesters

Piers Corbyn (left) outside the Old Bailey today alongside a crowd of pro-Assange protesters

Australian-born Assange had been charged under the US's 1917 Espionage Act for conspiring with Chelsea Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst, to hack into a Pentagon computer network and publish secret documents related to 'national defence.'

The WikiLeaks founder faced a total of 18 charges and was also accused of putting the lives of US informants at risk by publishing the material.

Assange has been locked in a bitter dispute with US authorities since July 2010 when WikiLeaks started publishing hundreds of thousands of classified US military and political documents from the Afghan and Iraq wars.

As US officials pursued him through the British courts, in June 2012, Assange entered the Ecuadorian embassy, requesting political asylum, which was granted two months later.

Assange remained holed up at the embassy until April 2019 when Ecuador revoked his asylum status, leading to his arrest and kickstarting a legal battle that culminated in today's judgment.

During his time in the embassy, the WikiLeaks founder fathered two children with his partner Stella Morris.

For the past 19 months, Assange has been held at Belmarsh top security jail.

He first appeared at the Old Bailey last February, but the case was pushed back because of the coronavirus pandemic.

If Assange had stood trial in the US, he faced a possible 175 years in prison if convicted of all charges.

The controversial WikiLeaks founder has attracted a number of high-profile supporters including Pamela Anderson and Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel, who visited him at the Ecuadorian embassy.

Others to have lent their support include the artist Al Weiwei and designer Dame Vivienne Westwood.

Assange was represented at his Old Bailey trial last year by eminent lawyer Jennifer Robinson.

Stella Moris, the mother of Julian Assange's children, Max and Gabriel (pictured left and right) this weekend said Britain 'would no longer be a haven for free speech' if he was extradited

Stella Moris, the mother of Julian Assange's children, Max and Gabriel (pictured left and right) this weekend said Britain 'would no longer be a haven for free speech' if he was extradited

A prison van - most likely carrying Assange - is seen coming into the Old Bailey for today's hearing 

The court head extraordinary details of the lengths US authorities were prepared to go to ensure that Assange stood trial in the country.

This included hiring a US security contractor to bug Assange's meetings in the Ecuadorian embassy and even a possible kidnap or poison plot to end the stalemate.

Judge Baraitser heard that if convicted, Assange faced the prospect of being held in a Supermax ADX facility in Colorado, where convicted terrorist Abu Hamza has been housed under Sams in solitary confinement.

Psychiatrists for the defence said Assange had suffered from severe depression and was a high suicide risk.

But lawyers for the US Government claimed that the prospect of Assange being held under Sams was 'speculative' and the sentence was likely to be much lower.

Chelsea Manning had been sentenced to 35 years over her role in leaking classified material but was given clemency after seven years.

However, she was jailed again for contempt in 2019 and fined for refusing to testify in court about Assange. 

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