London: A British court has rejected the United States' request to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to face espionage charges, saying it would be "oppressive" because of his mental health.
On Monday, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser said the 49 year old Australian publisher, who is currently lodged in Belmarsh Prison, was likely to kill himself if held under harsh US prison conditions.
The US government has said it would appeal the decision. Assange's lawyers said they would ask for his release from the prison where he has been held for more than a 18 months.
Responding to the decision, WikiLeaks' Editor in Chief, Kristinn Hrafnsson urged for a pressure on US side to drop the appeal.
"Let's be cautious in our celebration. Because the fight is not over," he said.
WikiLeaks' Kristinn Hrafnsson: 'It is a win for Julian Assange - but it is not a win for journalism. The US government should drop their appeal and let Julian go free. #AssangeCase pic.twitter.com/1b1J2qQQAf— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) January 4, 2021
Welcoming the judgement, the whistleblower's partner Stella Moris demanded US President Donald Trump to pardon Assange before he leaves office later this month.
Human rights watch groups welcomed the judgement of the British judge.
We welcome the fact that Julian Assange will not be sent to the USA, but this does not absolve the UK from having engaged in this politically-motivated process at the behest of the USA and putting media freedom and freedom of expression on trial.— Amnesty International (@amnesty) January 4, 2021
Assange, publisher and activist, founded WikiLeaks, a non-profit organization that publishes news leaks in 2006. The organization published a series of leaks provided by US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning.
The activist was arrested by London police on 11 April 2019 at Embassy of Ecuador after the asylum granted to him by Ecuador was withdrawn.
The British court will hear on his bail application on Wednesday.