Assange loses bid for bail as he awaits extradition appeal
(Sourced from PTI)
Julian Assange on Wednesday lost his bid to be released from prison in London on bail as a UK judge ruled that it was only fair to first allow the US authorities to appeal against an order blocking his extradition on espionage charges. District Judge Vanessa Baraitser said there were substantial grounds to believe the 49-year-old Australian would abscond.
Assange is an Australian editor, publisher, and activist who started a non-profit organization WikiLeaks that publishes news leaks. In 2010, it published a series of leaks including the Baghdad airstrike, Collateral Murder video, the Afghanistan war logs, the Iraq war logs, and Cablegate.
At Westminster Magistrates' Court in London, judge Baraitser said, "He is willing to flout the order of this court." "As a matter of fairness, the US must be allowed to challenge my decision and if Mr. Assange absconds during this process, they will lose the opportunity to do so," she added.
On Monday, the same judge had ruled that the Australian activist cannot be extradited to the US on mental health grounds because he is deemed a high suicide risk. The US government has 14 days from January 4 to appeal the decision.
Assange has been lodged at London's Belmarsh Prison since 2019, after hiding out for seven years inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in the UK capital to avoid extradition. The US prosecutors want to put him on trial for hacking and disclosing classified information, including the identities of informants who were helping intelligence agencies in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere.
The US indictment claims Assange conspired with army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to crack a scrambled encrypted password, known as "hash," to US Department of Defence computers. He has denied the charges and claimed there is no evidence anyone's safety was put at risk.
Assange's partner and mother of his two children, Stella Moris, was among a large group of his supporters who had gathered at the court. "This is a huge disappointment. Julian should not be in Belmarsh prison in the first place. I urge the [US] Department of Justice to drop the charges and the President of the United States to pardon Julian," she said.