The US government has appealed against a UK judge’s ruling blocking the extradition of WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange over the publication of thousands of classified documents, a US official has said.
A judge blocked the request to send Assange to the US in January, citing fears over his mental health and risk of suicide if he was made to stand trial in America.
In the ruling, district judge Vanessa Baraitser said it would be “oppressive” to extradite Mr Assange to the US due to his mental condition and gave the Biden administration until 12 February to appeal the decision.
“There was a filing today appealing it. Our intention is to continue to seek extradition of Julian Assange,” Marc Raimondi, a Justice Department spokesperson, said on Friday.
Press freedom groups and supporters of Mr Assange have called on the Biden administration to drop its campaign for extradition, warning that prosecuting him could set a dangerous precedent.
© ASSOCIATED PRESS Supporters of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange
“The indictment of Mr Assange threatens press freedom because much of the conduct described in the indictment is conduct that journalists engage in routinely – and that they must engage in in order to do the work the public needs them to do,” a letter, signed by groups including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Freedom of the Press Foundation, said earlier this week.
WikiLeaks drew fury from the US government after publishing thousands of pages of reports and documents generated by American military and intelligence agencies, including detailed descriptions of CIA hacking capabilities.
The organisation also published emails hacked from then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign – a move which some of her supporters have argued helped Donald Trump to win the subsequent election.
Barack Obama’s Justice Department decided not to seek Assange’s extradition on the grounds that what he and WikiLeaks did was too similar to journalistic activities protected by the first amendment of the US constitution.
However, the Trump administration stepped up public criticism of WikiLeaks and subsequently filed a series of harsh criminal charges accusing Mr Assange of participating in a hacking conspiracy.