Assange denied bail by London court over risk he might abscond again

Platform News: WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been denied bail with a British judge who said he would flee justice while the US attempts again to secure his extradition, a decade after he enraged Washington by releasing troves of confidential documents.

Assange had asked to be freed on bail after the judge ruled on Monday that he shouldn’t be extradited because he would be in danger of suicide.

But Judge Vanessa Baraitser refused that request, citing the seven years that he spent holed up at the Ecuadorean embassy in London following a previous flight from justice in 2012.

Assange, 49, sporting a navy suit, showed no response.

Baraitser explained the United States, where Assange faces 18 criminal charges of violating an espionage legislation and conspiring to hack government computers had to be allowed to challenge her decision to reject extradition.

That appeal could take weeks, ensnaring Assange – who was in prison since being hauled from the embassy in 2019 – in yet more legal wrangling.

Assange’s fiancee, Stella Moris, with whom he had two children while in the embassy, said that the judge’s decision to deny him bail was a huge disappointment and urged the United States to pardon him. WikiLeaks stated it would appeal against the refusal of bail.

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Admirers hail Assange for a hero for exposing what they portray as abuses of power by the United States. However, detractors throw him as a dangerous figure that has jeopardized the security of the West, and dispute he is a journalist.

WikiLeaks published hundreds of thousands of secret US diplomatic cables that laid bare frequently critical US appraisals of world leaders, from Russian President Vladimir Putin to members of the Saudi royal household.

Assange made global headlines in early 2010 when WikiLeaks published a classified US military video showing a 2007 assault by Apache helicopters that killed a dozen people in Baghdad, including two personnel of our news agency partners Reuters.

FREEDOM FOR ASSANGE?

Clair Dobbin, an attorney representing the United States in the hearing, said Assange had gone to extraordinary lengths to avoid extradition and that he could attempt to leave the United Kingdom to flee justice.

“This court should be under no illusion either as to the readiness of other states to offer Mr Assange protection.”

Assange’s lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald said it wasn’t sure US President-elect Joe Biden would continue to pursue Assange’s extradition. He added that Baraister’s extradition conclusion “changes everything” and consigned to report that the risk Assange would flee instead of stay in the United Kingdom with his family.

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Assange could have lived at a London address with a digital tag if freed, his lawyer said.

After leaving the Ecuadorean embassy, Assange was jailed for breaching British bail conditions and his assistants forfeited sureties of approximately $127,076. He’d sought asylum there to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he was wanted for questioning over alleged sexual crimes.

Judge Baraitser said Assange had boasted of helping US spy agency contractor Edward Snowden to flee justice.

Snowden fled the United States and was granted asylum in Russia after leaking covert files in 2013 that revealed vast national and global surveillance operations carried from the US National Security Agency.

Dobbin said the United States would appeal the decision not to extradite Assange. She stated his mental health problems weren’t as severe as his legal team had made out and that the ruling had set too high a bar, as no state could fully eliminate suicide risks.

“The court has discharged Mr Assange on a single ground, that of his mental health. It is a decision that hangs on a single thread,” Dobbin said.

The team at Platform Executive hope you have enjoyed this news article. Initial reporting via our official content partners at Thomson Reuters. Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge, Catherine Evans and Alex Richardson.

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