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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

GOP Rep. Gonzalez retires in face of Trump-backed primary

Ohio Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R) Photographer: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Ohio Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R) announced his retirement on Thursday, declining to run against a Trump-backed primary challenger in 2022.

Why it matters: Gonzalez has suffered politically since siding with House Democrats to impeach the 45th president after the Capitol riot.

Swing voters oppose Texas abortion law

Protesters at a rally at the Texas State Capitol. Photo: Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty Images

All 10 swing voters in Axios’ latest focus groups — including those who described themselves as "pro-life" — said they oppose Texas' new anti-abortion law.

Why it matters: If their responses reflect larger patterns in U.S. society, this could hurt Republicans with women and independents in next year's midterm elections. The swing voters cited overreach, invasion of privacy and concerns about frivolous lawsuits jamming up the courts.

8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Biden bombs with Manchin

Then-Vice President Joe Biden conducts a ceremonial swearing-in for Sen. Joe Manchin in 2010. Photo: Tom Williams/Roll Call

President Biden failed to persuade Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to agree to spending $3.5 trillion on the Democrats' budget reconciliation package during their Oval Office meeting on Wednesday, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: Defying a president from his own party — face-to-face — is the strongest indication yet Manchin is serious about cutting specific programs and limiting the price tag of any potential bill to $1.5 trillion. His insistence could blow up the deal for progressives and others.