A UK judge on Wednesday denied bail to WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange, who has been jailed in Britain since 2019 as he fights extradition to the US. District Judge Vanessa Baraitser ordered Assange to remain in prison while the courts consider an appeal by US authorities against a decision not to extradite him, the AP reports. On Monday, the judge rejected an American request to send Assange to the US to face espionage charges over WikiLeaks' publication of secret military documents a decade ago. She denied extradition on health grounds, saying the 49-year-old Australian was likely to kill himself if held under harsh US prison conditions. On Wednesday, Baraitser said that Assange "has an incentive to abscond" and that there's a good chance he would fail to return to court if freed. Assange has been detained at London's high-security Belmarsh Prison since April 2019, when he was arrested for skipping bail in 2012 during a separate legal battle.
Clair Dobbin, a British lawyer acting for the US, had argued Assange has shown he would go "to almost any length" to avoid extradition. She noted Assange had spent seven years inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London after seeking refuge there from a Swedish extradition request in 2012. Dobbin said he has the "resources, abilities, and sheer wherewithal" to evade justice once again, noting Mexico has said it will offer him asylum. But Assange's lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald, said the judge's decision to refuse extradition "massively reduces" any motivation to flee. Fitzgerald also said Assange would be safer at home with his partner, Stella Moris, and two young sons—fathered while he was in the embassy—than in prison, where there is "a very grave crisis of COVID." Assange could see up to 175 years in prison if convicted in the US of espionage and computer misuse charges.
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