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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

Updated 4 hours ago - World

Skripal poisoning suspects linked to Czech blast, as country expels 18 Russians

Combined images released by British police in 2018 of Alexander Petrov (L) and Ruslan Boshirov, who are suspected of carrying out an attack in the in the southern English city of Salisbury using Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent, and also the2014 Czech depot explosion. Photo: Metropolitan Police via Getty Images

Czech police on Saturday connected two Russian men suspected of carrying out a poisoning attack in Salisbury, England, with a deadly ammunition depot explosion southeast of the capital, Prague, per Reuters.

Driving the news: Czech officials announced Saturday they're expelling 18 Russian diplomats they accuse of being involved in the blast in Vrbětice, AP notes. Czech police said later they're searching for two men carrying several passports — including two with the names Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov.

Indianapolis mass shooting suspect legally bought 2 guns, police say

Marion County Forensic Services vehicles are parked at the site of a mass shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Friday. Photo: Jeff Dean/AFP via Getty Images

The suspected gunman in this week's mass shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis legally purchased two "assault rifles" believed to have been used in the attack, police said late Saturday.

Of note: The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department's statement that Brandon Scott Hole, 19, bought the rifles last July and September comes a day after the FBI told news outlets that a "shotgun was seized" from the suspect in March 2020 after his mother raised concerns about his mental health.

U.S. and China agree to take joint climate action

US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry waves as he arrives at the Elysee Presidential Palace on March 10, 2021 in Paris. Photo: Chesnot/Getty Images

Despite an increasingly tense relationship, the U.S. and China agreed Saturday to work together to tackle global climate change, including by "raising ambition" for emissions cuts during the 2020s — a key goal of the Biden administration.

Why it matters: The joint communique released Saturday evening commits the world's two largest emitters of greenhouse gases to work together to keep the most ambitious temperature target contained in the Paris Climate Agreement viable by potentially taking additional emissions cuts prior to 2030.