Julian Assange extradition ruling to be delivered Jan. 4

A British judge said on Thursday she would give her decision early next year on whether WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should be extradited to the United States to face charges including espionage.

The U.S. authorities accuse Australian-born Assange, 49, of conspiring to hack government computers and of violating an espionage law in connection with the release of confidential cables by WikiLeaks in 2010-2011.

Judge Vanessa Baraitser told London’s Old Bailey Court at the conclusion of hearings from witnesses in the case that she would deliver her verdict on Jan. 4.

Assange’s lawyers argue that the charges are politically motivated, that his mental health is at risk, that conditions in U.S. prisons breach Britain’s human rights laws, and that he and his lawyers were spied on while he was in the Ecuadorian embassy.

Assange’s supporters see him as a champion of free speech exposing abuses of power and hypocrisy by Washington.

Decision nearly a year in the making

The legal team representing the United States have countered that many of those arguments are issues that should be addressed in a trial, and have no bearing on extradition.

U.S. authorities say he is wanted not because he embarrassed them, but because he endangered informants, dissidents and rights activists in several countries, including Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan.

The hearings started in February but have been delayed at times, most extensively due to the pandemic.

While not part of the case at hand, WikiLeaks published a series of Democratic National Committee emails damaging to candidate Hillary Clinton during the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign.

U.S. investigators have concluded that the emails were hacked by Russia as part of an effort to influence the election.

In 2012, Assange took refuge in Ecuador’s London embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden where he was accused of sex crimes, which he denied and which were later dropped. After seven years, he was dragged from the embassy by British police in 2019.

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