Our mission to improve business is fueled by readers like you. To enjoy unlimited access to our journalism, subscribe today.
Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, on Monday won his battle against extradition from the UK to the US. The surprise decision of a London judge sparked happy scenes outside the court – but also warnings about protecting the free press.
For his role in leaking US military secrets, the 49-year-old Australian faces a slew of charges under the Espionage Act. According to Assange’s supporters– and many of his criticsalso – his case marks an important moment in the struggle for press freedom.
however, Monday decision didn’t end up wondering if what Assange would have done – conspire with whistleblower soldier Chelsea Manning to gain access to diplomatic cables and videos depicting the killing of civilians in Iraq – was protected by free speech.
Instead, London District Judge Vanessa Baraitser suspended Assange’s extradition because of his mental health.
Clinical experts have confirmed that he poses a significant suicide risk and that he would be likely to commit suicide if placed in solitary confinement in the United States, as he likely would – the “resolute determination” produced by his “autism spectrum disorder” is a factor here, the judge said. Thus, to extradite him to the United States would be “oppressive” and therefore illegal.
On the merits of the case, Baraitser said Assange’s alleged role in helping Manning crack the password on a Defense Department computer went beyond journalistic activity and was also allegedly illegal. under UK secrecy laws. She also rejected claims by supporters of Assange that the charges against him were politically motivated.
United States appeal the decision. Meanwhile, Assange’s lawyers are reportedly asking for bail on Wednesday.
“Politically motivated process”
“We welcome this decision on the grounds that he will not be extradited due to his serious mental health issues, but we are very concerned about the substance of the decision,” said Rebecca Vincent, activist for Reporters Without Borders, in front of the Old Bailey Court in London.
“We do not agree with the judge’s assessment that this case is not politically motivated, that it is not about freedom of expression. We continue to believe that Mr. Assange has been targeted for his contributions to journalism and until the underlying issues here are addressed, other journalists, sources and editors remain at risk.
Amnesty International also welcomed the fact that Assange is not being extradited, but the organization’s director for Europe, Nils Muižniek, said the charges “should never have been brought in the first place”.
“The fact that the ruling is correct and saves Assange from extradition does not exempt the UK from engaging in this politically motivated process at the behest of the US and bringing media freedom and freedom to justice. freedom of expression. This has set a terrible precedent for which the United States is responsible and the British government is complicit, ”Muižniek said in A declaration.
While the US espionage law has been used a dozen times to charge government employees for sharing classified information with journalists, it had not been used until the Assange case to indict a journalist. or an editor.
But thanks to Monday’s ruling, the Assange case will not be able to move to a precedent-setting stage, Freedom of the Press executive director Trevor Timm noted with approval after Monday’s ruling.
WikiLeaks’ publication of US diplomatic cables and military images took place in 2010, and the Obama administration was quick to say he wanted Assange to be prosecuted.
However, it wasn’t until 2019 that the Justice Department released its indictment – under the Trump administration and after Assange had spent seven years. take refuge in the British Embassy in Ecuador to avoid extradition to Sweden due to allegations of sex crimes (Swedish authorities fall this survey.)
Although his intelligence chiefs viewed WikiLeaks as a “non-state hostile intelligence service,” Trump himself was quite a fan, after repeatedly praising Assange’s crew for posting hacked Democratic emails during the 2016 election campaign.
More to read absolutely technological coverage of Fortune:
- CEO of Intuit in $ 7.1 billion acquisition of Credit Karma, reorientation towards AI and re-qualification of workers
- Comment: Uber and Lyft’s broken business model is takes a heavy toll on society
- Head of WarnerMedia Studios on controversial decision to release new movies on HBO Max
- Look for them new smartphone features in 2021
- LinkedIn saw a massive influx in user posts and violations this year