British court ruled on Monday that the Australian-born founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, will not be extradited to the United States where he is accused of espionage for publishing classified military documents.
Judge Vanessa Baraitser said during a hearing in the London criminal court that she refused the request because the 49-year-old could commit suicide.
Washington now has 14 days to appeal, and the US government’s legal representative has already confirmed that it will file an appeal.
The defense said it would request Assange’s release on bail.
Assange has been indicted by US prosecutors on 17 counts of spying and one charge of computer misuse and faces up to 175 years in prison.
This will now prolong the legal saga that has consumed Assange since 2010 when the WikiLeaks website published hundreds of thousands of Washington’s classified military and diplomatic documents.
Among the documents was a video showing American combat helicopters firing at civilians in Iraq in 2007. The attack killed several people in Baghdad, including two journalists from the Reuters news agency.
Wikileaks also revealed acts of torture and other abuse, and the US government claims that Assange endangered the lives of their informants by publishing secret documents on military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The defense argues that Assange was acting as a journalist and is entitled to the First Amendment protections of the American Constitution in relation to freedom of expression.
The Australian’s lawyers also say the United States wants to make it an example of the Wikileaks founder and will not have a fair trial in the country.
The hearings of the case in the United Kingdom were held in September, after months of delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Advocates for the activist displayed posters with phrases like “Arrest war criminals, free Julian Assange!”
In the same month, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office received a petition with 800,000 signatures against extradition.
The Australian was an asylum seeker for seven years at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, until he was arrested in April 2019 there.