UK court to rule on Assange extradition in major press freedom case

Julian Assange supporters celebrate outside court WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange cannot be lawfully extradited to the US to face charges over WikiLeaks due to his mental health and suicide risk, a UK judge has ruled. District Judge Vanessa Baraitser said that the isolated conditions Assange would likely to face in the US meant that extradition would be “oppressive”.

Assange, 49, would face a total of 17 charges of espionage and computer hacking in the US after he enflamed Washington by publishing documents revealing the grim realities of the so-called “war on terror”.  If extradited, the WikiLeaks founder could have been sentenced to as many as 175 years in a high security jail. British district judge Vanessa Baraitser delivered her ruling at London’s Central Criminal Court, known as the Old Bailey.

She said Assange would be kept in custody, ahead of an appeal from the US.

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Good morning and welcome to The Independent‘s live blog following a UK court’s decision on whether WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should be extradited to the US.  Chantal Da Silva4 January 2021 09:59

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District Judge Vanessa Baraitser to decide on US extradition

British district judge Vanessa Baraitser is expected to rule on Julian Assange’s US extradition this morning at London’s Central Criminal Court, better known as the Old Bailey.  If Mr Assange is extradited to the US, he could face a sentence of up to 175 years. 

Our Home Affairs and Security Correspondent Lizzie Dearden will be reporting live from court. Chantal Da Silva4 January 2021 10:03

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Press crowds outside Old Bailey ahead of Assange verdict

In this photo captured by our Home Affairs and Security Correspondent Lizzie Dearden, who is reporting live from court today, members of the press crowd outside the Old Bailey, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is soon to receive a verdict on whether he should be extradited to the US to face charges of espionage and computer hacking. 

(Lizzie Dearden)

Chantal Da Silva4 January 2021 10:12

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Few protesters gather outside court ahead of Assange ruling

Unlike previous hearings in Julian Assange’s long-running extradition case, few protesters had gathered outside the Old Bailey on Monday morning.  A lone man could be heard bellowing “Free Julian Assange” in the glare of dozens of television cameras and photographers from around the world.

 The street outside the historic court was closed to traffic to accomodate global media outlets, who await a judge’s decision in the case.  Among a small group of Assange’s supporters was Piers Corbyn, the brother of former Labour leader Jeremy, who has recently been leading anti-lockdown protests spreading conspiracy theories about coronavirus.  Perhaps, unlike him, other supporters were kept away by London’s strict tier 4 restrictions.

Or pehaps they know that today’s decision is unlikely to be the final say in the case, and will most likely to go appeal. Reporting live from court.  Lizzie Dearden4 January 2021 10:14

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Julian Assange arrives at court

Julian Assange has just arrived in the dock, wearing a navy blue suit and dark green face mask.

He has his nose out. Lizzie Dearden4 January 2021 10:15

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Judgment forthcoming

A judgment is expected to come any moment now in what WikiLeaks has called the biggest press freedom case in decades. Chantal Da Silva4 January 2021 10:16

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Judgment being delivered, but full reasons to be given in written ruling

District Judge Vanessa Baraitser is delivering her judgment now, but says her full reasons will be given in a written ruling.

Lizzie Dearden4 January 2021 10:19

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Defence argument based on UK-US extradition treaty not applicable, judge says

The judge is addressing key arguments in the case.  She says the defence argument that the UK-US extradition treaty meant Assange should not be extradited because he is accused of a “political offence” is not applicable, because rights are governed by the Extradition Act 2003 instead. Lizzie Dearden4 January 2021 10:28

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Judge weighs whether crimes alleged would be offences in England and Wales

The judge is addressing whether the crimes alleged by the US would be offences in England and Wales.

She says Assange’s role in the Manning disclosures “went beyond the mere encouragement of a journalist” and is detailing communications and joint work. Chantal Da Silva4 January 2021 10:29

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Judge says Assange’s actions ‘took him outside’ investigative journalism role

The judge says Assange had tried to recruit other hackers, including at conferences in 2009 and 2013, when he encouraged an audience to join the CIA to steal documents. She says his actions “took him outside any role of investigative journalism” and aimed to further Wikileaks’ aims.

Lizzie Dearden4 January 2021 10:30

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