Julian Assange's Extradition Denial Prompts Reaction From Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald

Allies of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange have welcomed the ruling from a U.K. judge that he should not be extradited to the United States.

District Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled Assange would face "harsh" prison conditions if sent to the U.S. and would likely take his own life, citing multiple previous cases in U.S. jails, including Jeffrey Epstein and former WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning.

"I find that the mental condition of Mr. Assange is such that it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America," the judge said in the ruling.

"I accept that there are entries in the notes which indicate a much better mood and lighter spirits at times, however the overall impression is of a depressed and sometimes despairing man, who is genuinely fearful about his future. I find that Mr. Assange's risk of committing suicide, if an extradition order were to be made, to be substantial."

The U.S. government's legal team has already said that it will appeal the decision. A bail application will reportedly be heard in the courtroom on Wednesday.

Among those breathing a sigh of relief on Monday was exiled American whistleblower Edward Snowden and journalist Glenn Greenwald, who both have prior relationships with Assange and his platform, which hosts an array of leaked documents.

Immediately after the ruling was made public, Snowden, who now lives in Russia after leaking U.S. mass surveillance secrets in 2013, tweeted: "Let this be the end of it."

Let this be the end of it. https://t.co/d9GDima1PA

— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) January 4, 2021

Greenwald, who initially worked on the Snowden disclosures, tweeted the ruling was "great news" but suggested it was not a victory for press freedom as the judge indicated there were grounds to prosecute Assange in connection with his prior leaks.

He wrote: "This wasn't a victory for press freedom... the judge made clear she believed there are grounds to prosecute Assange in connection with the 2010 publication. It was, instead, an indictment of the insanely oppressive US prison system.

"Ultimately... from a humanitarian *and* a political perspective, what matters most is that Assange be freed as soon as possible. The US Govt doesn't care what prison he's in, or why: they just want him silenced and in a cage. He should be freed immediately."

The rejection by the UK court of the US Govt's request to extradite Julian Assange to stand trial on espionage charges is obviously great news. But the judge endorsed most of the USG's theories, but ultimately found the US prison system too inhumane to permit extradition.

— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) January 4, 2021

Alan Rusbridger, the former editor of The Guardian newspaper, which previously partnered with WikiLeaks on stories, said the judge's ruling was "hardly a ringing endorsement of either Wikileaks or the function of journalism" but he agreed with the decision.

He wrote: "The extradition outcome is the right one and I hope the US will now drop the pursuit of Assange (and @Snowden) and let them get on with their lives."

The judge’s reasoning was hardly a ringing endorsement of either Wikileaks or the function of journalism. But the extradition outcome is the right one and I hope the US will now drop the pursuit of Assange (and @Snowden) and let them get on with their lives.

— alan rusbridger (@arusbridger) January 4, 2021

In May last year, the U.S. alleged Assange had played a key role in "one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States."

An 18-count federal indictment alleged Assange "was complicit with Chelsea Manning, a former intelligence analyst in the U.S. Army, in unlawfully obtaining and disclosing classified documents related to the national defense," the filings read. Supporters said that Assange would be facing up to 175 years in U.S. prison if he was convicted.

Video taken from outside the court showed supporters celebrating the ruling.

Celebrations outside the court #assange pic.twitter.com/B35GKrpCde

— Antonello Guerrera (@antoguerrera) January 4, 2021

Christophe Deloire, the secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), wrote on Twitter the decision against extradition was "historical for the right to information."

"It does not add an additional threat to investigative journalism. An extradition would have set a precedent. For those who defend him, it is a huge relief," he said.

Kevin Gosztola, a reporter who attended the ruling, said the judge had given Assange's legal team time to prepare a bail application. He added: "In the final minutes of the live feed from court, Assange turns to someone talking to him and we see a grin."

In the final minutes of the live feed from court, Assange turns to someone talking to him and we see a grin.

— Kevin Gosztola (@kgosztola) January 4, 2021
Julian Assange
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange arrives at court in London on May 1, 2019 to be sentenced for bail violation. DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty