Judge Vanessa Baraitser made the announcement just two days after denying a request from the United States to send Assange across the Atlantic, arguing that he is likely to commit suicide if extradited to face espionage charges. The U.S. is appealing that decision.
“I am satisfied that there are substantial grounds for believing that if Mr. Assange is released today he would fail to surrender to court to face the appeal proceedings,” Baraitser said Wednesday, according to Reuters.
“As far as Mr. Assange is concerned this case has not yet been won… the outcome of this appeal is not yet known,” she added.
One of Assange’s lawyers, Barry Pollack, called the judge’s latest decision “extremely disappointing” as “even though the request for Mr. Assange’s extradition to the United States has been denied, he will continue to be held in a maximum-security prison in London, under lockdown during a pandemic.”
“We look forward to the day that he can be reunited with his family,” he added in a statement to Fox News.
U.S. prosecutors have indicted Assange on 17 espionage charges and one charge of computer misuse over WikiLeaks’ publication of leaked military and diplomatic documents a decade ago. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison.
In rejecting the extradition request on Monday, Baraitser said Assange suffered from clinical depression that would be exacerbated by the isolation he would likely face in a U.S. prison.
The judge also noted that Assange had the “intellect and determination” to circumvent any suicide prevention measures the authorities could take.
Assange’s legal troubles began in 2010 when he was arrested in London at the request of Sweden, which wanted to question him about allegations of rape and sexual assault made by two women. In 2012, to avoid being sent to Sweden, Assange sought refuge inside the Ecuadorian Embassy, where he was beyond the reach of U.K. and Swedish authorities — but also effectively a prisoner, unable to leave the tiny diplomatic mission in London’s tony Knightsbridge area.
The relationship between Assange and his hosts eventually soured, and he was evicted from the embassy in April 2019.
Sweden dropped the sex crimes investigations in November 2019 because so much time had elapsed, but Assange remains in London’s high-security Belmarsh Prison, brought to court in a prison van throughout his extradition hearing.
Fox News’ Lillian LeCroy and the Associated Press contributed to this report.