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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange denied bail as U.S. challenges ruling to block his extradition

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By Jack Denton

A U.K. judge ruled on Wednesday that Julian Assange, the founder and publisher of WikiLeaks, won’t be granted bail as the U.S. challenges the ruling blocking his extradition.

Judge Vanessa Baraitser said that there are “substantial grounds” for believing that Assange is a flight risk and that “he would fail to surrender to court to face the appeal proceedings” if released.

The ruling comes after Baraitser’s decision on Monday that Assange should not be extradited to the U.S. to face espionage charges, over concerns for his mental health.

The ruling prevents Assange from facing 18 charges in the U.S. for his role in publishing thousands of secret U.S. files and diplomatic cables on WikiLeaks in 2010 and 2011.

One of the files was a now-infamous video of the July 12, 2007 airstrikes carried out in Baghdad by U.S. military helicopters. The attack on civilians claimed the lives of around a dozen people, including two journalists.

Baraitser ruled on Monday that, while she believed that Assange would face a fair trial in the U.S., concerns over his mental health should protect him from extradition.

She outlined his high risk for suicide and the likelihood that U.S. authorities would be unable to prevent him from taking his own life.

The Justice Department alleges that Assange conspired to hack government computers and broke a secrecy law in releasing the sensitive cables, which were leaked by U.S. Army analyst Chelsea Manning. 

Charges against him in the U.S. allege that his publication of the classified files was illegal and endangered lives.

If he was extradited to the U.S., Assange’s lawyers say he could face up to 175 years in prison, though U.S. prosecutors say he would face closer to five years.

The U.S. prosecution’s appeal will go to London’s High Court, and the case could continue to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Plus: Assange lawyer says Trump associates offered a deal if WikiLeaks founder divulged hacked DNC emails didn’t come via Russia

Monday’s ruling in Assange’s favor represents a landmark in over a decade of legal trouble in the U.K.

In 2010, Sweden sought his extradition to face charges for sex crimes, and when he lost that case in 2012 he fled to the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he spent seven years. The Swedish charges were later dropped.

In April 2019 he lost the protection of the Ecuadorean government and was arrested for breaching U.K. bail conditions. Shortly after that, the U.S. began its fight to extradite him.

Read more: A timeline of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s legal entanglements over the past decade

The 49-year-old is the founder and publisher of WikiLeaks, a controversial nonprofit news organization that publishes leaked and classified documents. 

Alongside exposing government wrongdoing related to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, WikiLeaks also played a role in the 2016 U.S. presidential election Democratic primary.

The group leaked emails and other documents from the Democratic National Committee showing that the party’s leadership favored Hillary Clinton as candidate over Bernie Sanders.

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