4 January 2021
The ruling not to allow Julian Assange’s extradition, announced today at the Old Bailey, brings to a close a dark episode for media freedom.
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:
“This decision will be welcomed by all who value journalists’ ability to report on national security issues. However, whilst the outcome is the right one, Judge Vanessa Baraitser’s judgement contains much that is troubling. Her basis for dismissing the US’ extradition request was the suicide risk that Assange poses in a US penal system that would probably have kept him in near total isolation.
“The judge rejected the defence case that the charges against Assange related to actions identical to those undertaken daily by most investigative journalists. In doing so, she leaves open the door for a future US administration to confect a similar indictment against a journalist.
“Given his lengthy period of incarceration, it is surely also time to grant Assange bail so that he can join his young family.”
The US has 15 days to appeal. Its lawyers have already indicated that they will lodge papers to this effect. Judge Baraitser says that she will refuse Assange bail until this process is complete.