British Judge Denies Extradition of Julian Assange Citing Brutality of Prisons in the United States.
“Despite the fact that the request was rejected, there is plenty in this ruling to cause alarm. Because someone else could easily be criminalized in the future.”
British Judge Vanessa Baraitser has ruled against the extradition of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to the United States. The decision was made citing the fact that it would be excessively oppressive for Assange to be incarcerated in the United States due to the cruel nature of the American prison system in light of Assange’s diagnosed mental health issues, such as “recurrent depressive disorder”, as well as autism “although he functions at a high level”.
Judge Baraitser indicated that procedures described by the United States would not prevent Assange from committing suicide while being incarcerated at a ‘Supermax prison’ if he was extradited to the United States. The cruel and inhumane mass incarceration system in the United States lost them their case against Julian Assange. Judge Baraitser said:
“I find that the mental condition of Mr. Assange is such that it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America.”
An article in Shadowproof written by Kevin Gosztola explained that “Baraitser determined in ‘conditions of near-total isolation,’ and without ‘protective factors which moderate his risk’ of committing suicide at the high-security Belmarsh prison, where he is currently detained, the authorities would not stop him from trying to end his life.”
Judge Baraitser brought attention to Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide in addition to the suicide attempt by Chelsea Manning in the Alexandria Detention Center. Assange would have been detained in the ‘Supermax’ prison at Alexandria throughout his trial if his extradition to the United States was approved.
Following the decision not to extradite Assange to the United States, John Rees of the Don’t Extradite Assange (DEA) Campaign said:
“95% of this judge's remarks supported prosecution...The one fact that swayed her into refusing the extradition was that the US prison system is so brutal that it will increase the risk of suicide, and she wasn't willing to put him in an oppressive prison system.”
Independent journalist Glenn Greenwald also tweeted:
“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.’”
Even though this is a temporary victory for Julian Assange, the precedents set in this case still threaten freedom of the press. Kevin Gosztola’s article explained:
“The charges criminalized common newsgathering practices, including the receipt and publication of secret government information...Baraitser accepted virtually all of the allegations by the U.S. government as reasonable, which was likely alarming to all press freedom organizations following the case”
The allegations included 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act and one count of “conspiracy to commit a computer intrusion that contains elements of an Espionage Act offense.” Along with additional indictments which were brought against Assange right before his extradition trial last fall which “contained new general allegations that targeted Assange’s speech at conferences and the role he allegedly played in helping NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden leave Hong Kong.” On Twitter Gosztola said:
“Despite the fact that the request was rejected, there is plenty in this ruling to cause alarm. Because someone else could easily be criminalized in future.”
Judge Baraitser also refused to acknowledge that Assange’s right to a fair trial would be infringed upon as a result of him being charged under the Espionage Act by the United States. Individuals charged under the Espionage Act in the United States “face an uphill battle with few prospects of a fair trial” according to an article by independent journalist Chip Gibbons in Rights and Dissent. Gibbons explained:
“In addition to Kafkaesque levels of secrecy and Byzantine classification structures, Espionage Act cases allow for no affirmative defense that a disclosure was in the public interest. Even more challenging, the government is not required to prove an individual indicted under the Espionage Act acted with the intent to harm US national security or aid a foreign power. As a result, judges have barred whistleblowers from testifying about the reason for their actions,”
Assange’s legal team is requesting Assange be released on bail, but the United States is expected to appeal the decision to deny extradition made by Judge Baraitser, which could likely result in Assange staying locked up as the appeal is pending.
While this is a temporary victory for Assange, it is not a win for freedom of the press. None of the real criminals responsible for committing the crimes that Assange is being punished for exposing are being held accountable for their corruption and war crimes. Julian Assange has been subject to torture and has risked life in federal prison for exposing the crimes of global superpowers. The United States government should drop its appeal and free Julian Assange. Anything less than immediate freedom for Assange is an insult to the very concept of justice itself.
For more background on the case against Julian Assange and the United States war against whistleblowers and the free press, check out this Bull-Moose Note article that was written during Assange’s extradition trials in September of 2020.