Ein court in London rejected the American extradition request for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange on Monday. The 49-year-old Assange would have threatened up to 175 years in prison if convicted. The judge based her decision on Assange’s mental health and the conditions of detention that would await him in the United States. It is to be expected that he will commit suicide in solitary confinement.
The litigation is likely to continue in the UK for the time being, as the decision can be appealed. After a further instance, the proceedings could go to the British Supreme Court and finally deal with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
The Wikileaks founder had been in the maximum security prison Belmarsh in the southeast of the British capital for around a year and a half. In view of the corona pandemic, he was only allowed to receive a very limited number of visitors, and phone calls to the outside were not unlimited. Because of a corona outbreak in prison, an entire block was temporarily quarantined. Family members have long had concerns about Assange’s mental and health condition.
The American judiciary accuses the native Australian Assange of stealing and publishing secret material from American military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan together with the whistleblower Chelsea Manning – then Bradley Manning. Assange put the lives of American informants at risk, so the allegation. His supporters, however, see him as an investigative journalist who has brought war crimes to light.
Assange’s father, John Shipton, is hoping for a pardon for his son from President-elect Joe Biden. Assange’s fiancée, Stella Moris, had so far tried in vain to persuade outgoing President Donald Trump to pardon her partner.
Assange had saved himself in 2012 for fear of extradition to Sweden and from there to the United States in the Ecuadorian representative office in London. He stayed there until his arrest in spring 2019. Investigations in Sweden into rape allegations were later closed. UN expert Melzer had described it as “constructed”.
There are also numerous voices in Germany who stand up for Assange. The organization Reporters Without Borders had demanded the immediate release of the Wikileaks founder before the London decision was announced. “The US indictment against Julian Assange is clearly politically motivated,” said managing director Christian Mihr on Friday. “The US wants to set an example and have a deterrent effect on media workers all over the world.”
The federal government’s human rights commissioner, Bärbel Kofler, had expressed concern about the procedure. “Human rights and humanitarian aspects must not be overlooked,” wrote the SPD member of the Bundestag before the hearing on Monday. She had warned that Assange’s physical and mental health “must be taken into account” when deciding on extradition to the United States.
There is now a cross-party working group in the Bundestag that advocates the release of Assange. Members of all parties except the AfD are represented in it.