Magistrate Vanessa Baraitser on Monday ordered Julian Assange’s discharged based on a severe risk of suicide.
She said U.S. authorities did not convince her they could prevent his suicide. Before reaching her conclusion Baraitser agreed with virtually every point in the U.S. favor until she came to the condition of his health and what extradition to the U.S. would mean. Baraitser brought Assange down a dark alley before her surprise decision at the end.
At the moment the judge said Assange would be “discharged” the courtroom camera swung to him sitting in the glassed-in dock. He showed no reaction.
Baraitser was ready to immediately hear a bail application but Assange’s lawyers have asked until Wednesday to make it. She told the court that her decision whether to release Assange from remand in Belmarsh prison would also depend on the U.S. decision on an appeal, which the U.S. has decided to file.
Craig Murray, the former British diplomat and friend of Assange, told jubliant supporters on the street outside Old Bailey that he expected “Julian to be walking among us” on Wednesday.
Press freedom advocates were disappointed in the judgement, saying her acceptance of U.S. contentions that Assange was not engaging in journalistic activity but rather assisting his source, Chelsea Manning, crack into a government computer, as well as possessing and publishing classified material, established a precedent to ensnare journalists doing their job.
By affirming that journalists can be prosecuted under the U.S. Espionage Act, as well as the British Official Secrets Act, Baraitser handed down a perilous ruling for the future of journalism.
As the judge agreed on every point with the U.S. indictments of Assange, there is little the United States can appeal other than to argue that Assange is not severely suicidal or that it can be managed, and that its prisons are not the well-established dungeons that they are.