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Julian Assange in a police vehicle outside Westminster Magistrates court in London in 2019. Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange must not be extradited to the U.S., where he's wanted on charges of violating the Espionage Act and hacking government computers, because of the high risk of suicide in U.S. custody, a British judge in London ruled Monday.

Why it matters: The ruling, which will be appealed by the U.S., is a huge win for Assange after a years-long battle. The case has raised significant questions about First Amendment protections for publishers of classified information, as Assange argues he was acting as a journalist when he published leaked documents on Iraq and Afghanistan.

  • The 49-year-old Australian faces up to 175 years in prison in the U.S. if ultimately extradited and found guilty of all charges in the 18-count indictment filed against him.
  • His case has become highly politicized in the U.S., after WikiLeaks was accused in 2016 of releasing Democratic emails hacked by Russian intelligence in order to damage Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. The charges he faces are not related to the 2016 election.

The big picture: The U.S. Department of Justice accused Assange of conspiring in 2010 with Chelsea Manning, who was imprisoned from 2010 to 2017 for leaked thousands of military and diplomatic documents, to crack a password on Defense Department computers.

  • Last year, the DOJ charged Assange in a superseding indictment for recruiting and conspiring with computer hackers, including those affiliated with the hacking groups LulzSec and Anonymous.
  • He was arrested in 2019 in London's Ecuadorian Embassy after the nation withdrew its offer of asylum. He spent seven years there after Sweden announced rape charges against him that have since been dropped.

Between the lines: Assange's legal team and defenders say the prosecution against him is politically motivated, and that he is being kept in detention conditions that violate human rights.

For the record: District Judge Vanessa Baraitser did not decide on Assange's guilt in the ruling, only whether the U.S. extradition request complied with a 2003 extradition treaty. This requires judges to determine whether defendants could also face trial in the U.K. over the crimes they're accused of.

  • Baraitser did, however, dismiss claims from the defense that Assange should be protected under freedom of press, saying in court that his activities "went beyond the mere encouragement of a journalist."
  • The U.S. is expected to appeal the case.

Go deeper

2 hours ago - World

Tunisian president ousts prime minister, suspends parliament amid unrest

Tunisians stage a protest in response to the problems in the health sector in the country, demanding the resignation of the government and the dissolution of the parliament in Tunis on July 25. Photo: Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Tunisian President Kais Saied announced Sunday that he had dismissed the country's prime minister and frozen the parliament amidst mass protests in the country, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: The move, which comes on the 64th anniversary of Tunisia's independence, escalates Saied's longstanding feud with Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and poses a challenge to the 2014 constitution that "split powers between president, prime minister and parliament," per Reuters.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Pelosi appoints GOP Rep. Kinzinger to Jan. 6 committee

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced Sunday that she has appointed Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) to serve on the House select committee investigating the Jan 6. Capitol riot.

Why it matters: Pelosi's announcement comes after she rejected two of the five Republican appointments offered by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

USCP chief: Officers testifying before Jan. 6 committee "need to be heard"

Thomas Manger, the new chief of the U.S. Capitol Police, Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

New Capitol Police chief Tom Manger said officers testifying before the Jan. 6 select committee this week "need to be heard."

Driving the news: The select committee's first hearing is set to take place on Tuesday and will feature testimony from law enforcement officers who were subject to some of the worst of violence during the insurrection.