On Thursday, January 14 at 19:30 GMT:
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange remains in legal limbo after a British judge blocked his extradition to the United States but later refused to grant him bail.
Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled on January 4 that Assange should not immediately be sent to the US to face federal espionage and computer misuse charges. US prosecutors allege he conspired with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to publish hundreds of thousands of sensitive US government documents.
Baraitser said extraditing Assange to the US would be “oppressive” to Assange’s mental health, noting his diagnosed clinical depression would be exacerbated by the likelihood of him being held in “severely restrictive detention conditions designed to remove physical contact” in the US. Lawyers from the US Department of Justice plan to appeal the ruling.
But while Baraitser blocked Assange’s extradition due to concerns over the likely impact on his health, she also declared he had a role in “aiding and abetting” Manning – the central plank of the US case against Assange. Journalism organisations are among those concerned that the US prosecution of Assange sets a precedent for government action against reporters trying to expose sensitive matters in the public interest. US critics of Assange dismiss that view.
Two days after blocking his extradition Judge Baraitser denied Assange bail, on the grounds that he has “an incentive to abscond” and that he would go “to almost any length to flee”. Assange remains in the high-security Belmarsh prison, where he has been held since police arrested and removed him from the Ecuadorian embassy in London in April 2019. Assange’s partner Stella Moris has urged his release from Belmarsh, saying that he is enduring “atrocious” conditions as a remand prisoner alongside violent convicts and that he is exposed to a COVID-19 outbreak in the wing where he is being held. Moris and the UN’s Special Rapporteur on torture are among those urging US President Donald Trump to pardon Assange. Meanwhile, Mexico’s president says his government stands ready to offer Assange political asylum.
We’ll look at the legal saga Assange is facing and what may happen next. Join the conversation.