Wednesday, January 06, 2021
Judge sees danger of escape
Assange’s release denied
Whistleblower Julian Assange has been in custody for 15 months. After the rejection of an extradition request, the Wikileaks founder hopes to be released on bail. A court in London decides against it: Assange remains in the maximum security prison.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange remains in custody in the UK. A court in London denied the defense’s motion to release the 49-year-old on bail. On Monday, the same judge rejected a US extradition request against Assange.
Vanessa Baraitser had based her first decision on Assange’s mental health and the prison conditions that would await him in the United States. It is to be expected that he will commit suicide in solitary confinement. Now she said Assange could be treated well in the maximum security Belmarsh Prison. In addition, there is a risk that Assange will try to escape, as in the past.
Assange had evaded prosecution at the Ecuadorian embassy in London for nearly seven years. An appeal can still be lodged against the judgment – as well as against the new decision. The US judiciary accuses Assange of stealing and publishing secret material from US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan together with whistleblower Chelsea Manning – then Bradley Manning. He put the lives of US informants in danger. His supporters, however, consider him an investigative journalist who has brought war crimes to light.
The journalists’ organization Reporters Without Borders no longer sees great chances of success for the US justice system. “It is very unlikely that a US appointment will be successful,” said the organization’s London representative, Rebecca Vincent, of the German Press Agency. “I don’t see what new arguments the lawyers could bring up in court.” She hopes US President-elect Joe Biden will be able to settle Assange’s prosecution when he takes office. Biden is slated to be sworn in on January 20th in the US, ending Donald Trump’s era.
The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, warned of a precedent “denying investigative journalists the protection of the freedom of the press and paving the way for their prosecution on charges of espionage”. Monday’s verdict is dangerous. It is only a question of whether Assange is fit enough to endure the prison conditions in the USA, said Melzer according to a statement.