A British judge has denied bail to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange two days after she rejected an extradition request by the United States to face charges over the publication of secret U.S. military documents.
London Judge Vanessa Baraitser on January 6 said Assange should remain in detention, where he has been since 2019, while an appeal of her ruling rejecting extradition is being considered.
Assange “has an incentive to abscond” and there is a good chance he would fail to return to court if freed, Baraitser said in handing down her decision.
The U.S. government is appealing Baraitser’s decision to deny extradition, which could lead to more legal wrangling in the 10-year saga seen by the 49-year-old’s supporters as a cause for media freedom.
In the United States, Assange faces 17 espionage charges and one charge of computer misuse over WikiLeaks’ publication of thousands of leaked military and diplomatic documents in 2010 and 2011.
His lawyers say he could go to prison for 30 to 40 years, but U.S. prosecutors have said he would face no more than about five years in jail.
Assange was arrested in London at the request of the United States after he was evicted in April 2019 from the Ecuadorian Embassy, where he had been sheltering since 2012 after Ecuador granted him political asylum.
Assange’s lawyers say the indictment is a politically motivated abuse of power that will stifle press freedom and put journalists around the world at risk.
Assange also suffers from wide-ranging mental health issues, including suicidal tendencies that could be exacerbated if he is imprisoned in the United States, his defense team has said.
U.S. authorities say more than 100 people were put at risk by the disclosures and about 50 had received assistance, with some fleeing their home countries with their spouses and families to move to the United States or another safe country.
Critics of Assange point out that his WikiLeaks rarely leaked material from authoritarian states.
Dozens of human rights and press freedom organizations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Reporters Without Borders, oppose Assange’s extradition.
Stella Moris, Assange’s partner and the mother of his two sons, appealed after the January 6 ruling to U.S. President Donald Trump to grant a pardon before he leaves office on January 20.