LONDON — A British judge ruled on Monday that the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange cannot be extradited to the United States to face trial on charges of violating the Espionage Act, saying he would be at extreme risk of suicide.
The decision in the high-profile case grants Mr. Assange a major victory against the U.S. authorities who charged him over his role in obtaining and publishing secret military and diplomatic documents related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Rights groups and advocates applauded the ruling, but many expressed concern about its rationale. The judge focused on Mr. Assange’s mental health issues, but rejected the defense argument that the charges were an attack on press freedom and were politically motivated.
Mr. Assange, 49, who was present at Monday’s hearing and wearing a face mask, was indicted in 2019 on 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act and conspiring to hack government computers in 2010 and 2011. If found guilty on all counts, he could face a sentence of up to 175 years in prison.
said in Monday’s ruling that she was satisfied that the American authorities had brought forth the case “in good faith,” and that Mr. Assange’s actions went beyond simply encouraging a journalist. But she said there was evidence of a risk to Mr. Assange’s health if he were to face trial in the United States, noting that she found “Mr. Assange’s risk of committing suicide, if an extradition order were to be made, to be substantial.”
She ruled that the extradition should be refused because “it would be unjust and oppressive by reason of Mr.
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