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A British judge will decide on Wednesday whether WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange He will be released from the prison where he has been detained for more than a year and a half as he fights extradition to the United States.

Assange has been detained in London’s Belmarsh High Security Prison since April 2019, when he was arrested for missing bail during a separate legal battle seven years earlier.

A British judge will decide on Wednesday whether WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will be released from prison. (AP)

The judge denied extradition on health grounds, saying the 49-year-old Australian is likely to kill himself if kept in harsh conditions in the United States.

The judge ruled that “Mr. Assange’s mental condition is such that it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America.”

Lawyers for the US government say they will appeal the decision and the US Department of Justice says it will continue to seek Assange’s extradition.

Clair Dobbin, a British lawyer acting for the United States, said Assange had shown that he would go to “almost any extreme” to avoid extradition, and that he was likely to flee if bail was granted.

A sketch by a court artist shows Julian Assange at the Old Bailey in London for the ruling in his extradition case. (AP)

He noted that Assange had spent seven years inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London after seeking refuge there from a Swedish extradition request in 2012.

Dobbin said Assange had “the resources, the skills and the pure means” to evade justice once again, noting that Mexico has said it will offer him asylum.

US prosecutors have charged Assange with 17 counts of espionage and one count of computer misuse for WikiLeaks’ publication of thousands of leaked military and diplomatic documents.

The charges carry a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison.

US prosecutors say Assange illegally aided US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in stealing classified diplomatic cables and military files that were later released by WikiLeaks.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange leaves in a prison van after appearing before Westminster Magistrates Court in London. (AP)

Assange’s lawyers argue that he was acting as a journalist and is entitled to First Amendment protections of free speech for publishing documents exposing US military irregularities in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The judge rejected that argument in her extradition ruling, saying that Assange’s actions, if proven, would amount to crimes “that would not be protected by his right to freedom of expression.”

He also said that the US judicial system would give him a fair trial.

A supporter of Julian Assange wears a face mask with his name outside the Old Bailey in London. (AP)

Assange’s legal troubles began in 2010, when he was arrested in London at the request of Sweden, who wanted to question him on allegations of rape and sexual assault made by two women.

In 2012, Assange jumped bail and sought refuge within the Ecuadorian embassy, ​​where he was off limits to British and Swedish authorities, but was also a prisoner in the small diplomatic mission.

The relationship between Assange and his hosts eventually soured and he was evicted from the embassy in April 2019.

British police immediately arrested him for violating bail in 2012.

Sweden abandoned sex crime investigations in November 2019 because a long time had passed, but Assange has remained in prison during his extradition hearing.


www.9news.com.au

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