Julian Assange extradition verdict: How the world reacted

Supporters welcome judge’s decision to block extradition on health grounds as US prosecutors expected to appeal.

WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange gestures in a prison van, as he leaves Southwark Crown Court in London, Britain, May 1, 2019 [Neil Hall/EPA]

WikiLeaks founder and publisher Julian Assange should not be extradited to the United States to face espionage charges, a UK court ruled on Monday.

District Judge Vanessa Baraitser said such a move would be “oppressive” taking into account Assange’s mental health, saying he was at risk of suicide.

While his supporters welcomed the move, there was still an air of caution as many expect the US government to appeal the decision, meaning Assange will continue to be held at Belmarsh prison in London, a maximum security facility.

The US has charged him with hacking government computers and espionage in relation to WikiLeaks’s publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents between 2010 and 2011 about the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

Assange and his legal team have long said the case against him is politically motivated.

Here is how the world has reacted:

Noam Chomsky, MIT professor and prominent US foreign policy critic

Chomsky told Al Jazeera: “We can celebrate the fact that Assange won’t be sent to the barbaric US incarceration system, but the rest was a disaster.”

“The verdict was a gift to the Biden administration. They will not have to bear the onus of a trial that would be an international scandal,” he said.

“Assange is dismissed as mentally ill. The verdict gives a judicial imprimatur to the US government charges, no matter how ludicrous they are and how thoroughly the were refuted by defence witnesses.

“That grants license to use them next time the government wants to silence someone who is informing the public about state crimes that authorities would like to conceal.”


Editor-in-Chief of WikiLeaks Kristinn Hrafnsson said the day was a “win” for the 49-year-old Australian, but not for press freedom and journalism.

“It is a win for Julian Assange – but it is not necessarily a win for journalism … the US side should drop the appeal and say enough,” he said.

Christine Assange – Julian Assange’s mother

“Its not over till he’s safely home and all charges dropped, but today was the best news,” Christine posted on Twitter.

“Its been 10 long traumatic years.”

Stella Moris – Assange’s partner

“Today’s victory is the first step towards justice in this case,” Moris, who has two children with Assange, told reporters outside the court.

She added that the publisher’s freedoms “were coupled with all our freedoms”, calling on US President Donald Trump to pardon Assange.

British musician M.I.A

M.I.A, who has long supported Assange, welcomed the decision as a “great vibe for 2021”. She also claimed on Twitter that she had previously asked Prince William to help “free Assange”, to which he reportedly replied it was “not in my power”.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Mexican president

The Mexican president said he is ready to offer political asylum to Assange and supported the decision of a UK judge to deny his extradition to the US.

“Assange is a journalist and deserves a chance, I am in favour of pardoning him,” Obrador told his regular news conference. “We’ll give him protection.”

Rafael Correa, former Ecuador president

Correa, who had granted Assange asylum in the country’s London embassy in 2012, said the blocking of his extradition was “great news”.

“Great news for the world! Congratulations to Julian, but also to his extraordinary team of lawyers,” he said on Twitter.

Zahra Sultana, UK member of Parliament

Sultana said the decision not to extradite Assange was “right” and that he should be released from Belmarsh immediately.

Edward Snowden, NSA whistle-blower

Snowden thanked all those who supported Assange, calling his trial “one of the most dangerous threats to press freedoms in decades”.

Jeremy Corbyn, former UK Labour party leader

The British member of Parliament said extraditing Assange would be “an attack on press freedom” and he should be released from prison.

John Pilger, journalist and filmmaker

The Australian veteran journalist called the verdict “wonderful”, adding that it was a face-saving moment for the UK to “justify their disgraceful political trial of Assange”.

Amnesty International – human rights group

The UK-based organisation welcomed the decision while condemning the UK government for “putting media freedom and freedom of expression on trial”.

Glenn Greenwald, journalist and Intercept founder

Despite calling the decision as “great news”, Greenwald said Judge Baraitser had mostly endorsed the US government’s arguments.

“This wasn’t a victory for press freedom. Quite the contrary: the judge made clear she believed there are grounds to prosecute Assange in connection with the 2010 publication,” he tweeted.

Peter Hitchens, UK journalist

The British author and conservative critic condemned journalists who he alleged previously refused to “speak up for Julian Assange”, calling it a “pitiful performance (one of many) by our trade”.

“How does it feel to be out-libertied by an Old Bailey [court] Judge?” he asked.

With reporting by Usaid Siddiqui.

Source: Al Jazeera