WIKILEAKS founder Julian Assange has had his hopes for freedom dashed after being denied bail at a court hearing today.
Today’s decision came after it was ruled on Monday that Assange, 49, cannot be extradited to the US to face spy charges due to a suicide risk.
The WikiLeaks founder has been wanted in the US on spy charges, but had his bail application denied todayCredit: AFP or licensors
But Assange had his bail application denied by a judge at a Westminster Magistrates’ Court hearing this morning.
District Judge Vanessa Baraitser rejected an application for Assange to be released with strict conditionals over concerns he would abscond.
Assange appeared in the dock today dressed in a smart suit and a clinical face mask.
His partner, Stella Moris, mother of their two children, was earlier pictured arriving at court with WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson for today’s hearing.
US EXTRADITION BATTLE
Assange is accused of conspiring with army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning after WikiLeaks published hundreds of thousands of leaked documents in 2010 and 2011.
On Monday, at the Old Bailey, District Judge Baraitser denied the request to put the Australian on trial for espionage and hacking government computers.
Extradition to the US would be ‘oppressive’ to Assange’s mental health, the judge said.
Lawyers for the US government are set to appeal Monday’s judgment.
Speaking at today’s hearing as she rejected Assange’s bail applciation, Judge Baraister said: “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.
“Mr Assange still has a huge support network available to him should he again choose to go to ground.”
At today’s hearing, Assange’s lawyer Ed Fitzgerald, QC, argued his client had “every reason” to stay in the UK if he is granted bail.
Assange’s partner Stella Moris arriving at Westminster Magistrates Court this morningCredit: AP:Associated Press
Assange appeared at Westminister Magistrates Court this morningCredit: Reuters
Mr Fitzgerald said: “Put simply, Mr Assange has every reason to stay in this jurisdiction where he has the protection of the rule of law and this court’s decision.”
Mr Fitzgerald said there was a “very grave crisis” of Covid-19 in prison and told the court Assange would be under “house arrest” if bailed.
But US government lawyer Clair Dobbin argued there were no conditions that would guarantee Assange would surrender to bail.
She said: “He is someone who has shown himself as capable of going to extraordinary lengths to avoid extradition.”
Assange has been accused of a plot to hack computers and a conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information.
He was accused of conspiring with army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning after WikiLeaks published hundreds of thousands of leaked documents in 2010 and 2011.
The 500,000 secret files detailed aspects of military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq and cables about Guantanamo Bay.
A US grand jury indicted him on 18 charges last year, including 17 under the Espionage Act.
From 2012 to 2019, Assange sought asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London as he faced extradition to Sweden on sex assault claims – which were later dropped – claiming he feared being sent to face espionage charges in the US.
Blocking his extradition to the US on Monday, District Judge Baraister said a previous suicide attempt gives ‘the overall impression is of a depressed and sometimes despairing man.’
The judge said: “I am satisfied the procedures described by the US will not prevent Mr Assange from finding a way to commit suicide.
“For this reason I have decided extradition would be oppressive by reason of mental harm and I order his discharge.”
If convicted, he would have been held in isolation at the maximum-security Supermax jail in Colorado, described as ‘a ‘fate worse than death’ by a former warden.
Celebrity supporter of Assange include Pamela Anderson, Dame Vivienne Westwood and artist Al Weiwei.
WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson (L) arrived at court with Ms MorisCredit: PA:Press Association
The WikiLeaks founder’s bail hearing was at Westminster Magistrates’ Court todayCredit: AFP or licensors
A court artist’s sketch shows Julian Assange appearing at the Old Bailey on Monday, where a judge decided he can’t be extradited to the USCredit: Priscilla Coleman/MB Media
Assange has been held in Belmarsh prison as he fought extradition to the USCredit: Reuters
Piers Corbyn joined supporters of Assange outside the Old Bailey on MondayCredit: Getty Images – Getty