Ruling expected to be appealed by US gov’t in move that could lead to further legal wrangling.
A British judge has ruled WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should not be extradited to the US to face espionage charges.
District Judge Vanessa Baraitser delivered the decision against the US request on Monday, at the Old Bailey.
The ruling is likely to be appealed by the US government attempting to prosecute the whistle-blower.
The case could then go to the United Kingdom’s Supreme Court, further delaying a final outcome.
Assange, 49, is expected to remain in jail in the UK in the meantime. He has been held at the maximum security Belmarsh prison in southeast London since April 2019.
Assange appeared in court on Monday, having arrived from the maximum-security Belmarsh prison in southeast London, where he has been jailed for almost two years.
In the run-up to Monday’s decision, Assange had enjoyed a swell of support from press freedom advocates, who have been calling on US President Donald Trump to pardon him.
“I am relieved the judge just ruled against extradition, however I am very unhappy about how she stuck to all the major arguments put forward by the US to characterise Assange’s work as going beyond free speech and journalism,” investigative journalist Stefania Maurizi told Al Jazeera following the ruling.
Maurizi works for the Italian daily Il Fatto Quotidiano and has worked on all of WikiLeaks’s secret documents, included the 2010 documents for which Assange has been charged.
“I am also very concerned that Assange will remain in prison, because it’s very likely the US will appeal: he is at serious risk physically and mentally.”
US authorities accuse Australian-born Assange of 18 counts of conspiring to hack government computers and of breaching a secrecy law by releasing vast troves of confidential military records and diplomatic cables more than a decade ago.
Al Jazeera’s Neave Barker, reporting from outside the Old Bailey, said the decision would come “as a blow” to the prosecution.
“We assume now that the process of appeal will begin, taking this case onwards to the High Court and possibly even the Supreme Court,” he said.
“We are talking potentially about many many more months, or many more years, of legal wrangling to go when it comes to deciding Julian Assange’s future.”
This is a breaking news update. More details to follow …