A British judge has ruled that Julian Assange can’t be extradited to the U.S.
Judge Vanessa Baraitser said she had refused his extradition because of fears that he could kill himself.
The U.S. government said it would appeal the decision, the Associated Press reported.
Assange’s lawyers had argued the entire prosecution was politically motivated, powered by outgoing President Donald Trump, and that his extradition posed a severe threat to the work of journalists.
At a hearing at London’s Old Bailey, Baraitser rejected nearly all the arguments of Assange’s legal team, but said she could not extradite him as there was a real risk he would kill himself – and instead ordered his discharge.
“Faced with conditions of near total isolation [...] I am satisfied that the procedures [outlined by U.S. authorities] will not prevent Mr. Assange from finding a way to commit suicide,” she said.
Assange wiped his brow after the decision was announced, while his fiancée, Stella Moris, with whom he has two young sons, wept.
She was embraced by Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief, who sat next to her in court as the judgment was delivered.
Assange has been remanded in custody ahead of a bail application that could take place later today.
The WikiLeaks founder faces an 18-count indictment, alleging a plot to hack computers and a conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defense information.
The case follows WikiLeaks’s publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents in 2010 and 2011 relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, as well as diplomatic cables.
Prosecutors say Assange helped U.S. defense analyst Chelsea Manning breach the Espionage Act in unlawfully obtaining material, was complicit in hacking by others, and published classified information that put the lives of U.S. informants in danger.
The 49-year-old denies plotting with Manning to crack an encrypted password on U.S. Department of Defense computers and says there is no evidence anyone’s safety was put at risk.
Assange’s lawyers have said he faces up to 175 years in jail if convicted, although the U.S. government said the sentence was more likely to be between four and six years.
The Associated Press contributed reporting.