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Assange - extradition denied, lawyers for US to appeal

THE REQUEST to extradite Julian Assange to the US to face espionage charges has been denied. District Judge Vanessa Baraitser delivered the judgment at the Old Bailey (the Central Criminal Court) this morning.

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Socially distanced press pack and Assange supporters await the judgment at the Old Bailey

The US Government lawyers seeking Julian's extradition have 15 days to appeal and they have already indicted that they intend to do so. The appeal is likely to be heard at the High Court. It will very possibly go to the Supreme Court after that.

Julian Assange will remain in custody in Belmarsh maximum security prison until that time. His legal team is to make an application for bail on Wednesday (6 January) at Westminster Magistrates Court.

The bail application was refused on 6 January.

The US Federal charges against Julian Assange under the Espionage Act relate to WikiLeaks disclosures including the "Pentagon war logs", revealing war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. If convicted, he faces a 175-year sentence in a "supermax" prison - solitary confinement in all but name - in a cell the size of parking space. For more background, including the worrying implications for journalists everywhere if Julian Assange is convicted, see here.

Judge Baraitser ruled against Julian's extradition on the grounds of his mental health and well-being, and because of a high suicide risk.

the Central Criminal Court in London

The entrance to the Central Criminal Court, with Assange supporters

There were noticeably more foreign outlets than British ones represented in the press pack outside the Old Bailey waiting for the judgment. City Police on duty in a Tier 4 coronavirus lockdown were repeatedly asking journalists for their Press Cards and stopping them and asking them for their "reason for being there".

Crime correspondent and LFB member Duncan Campbell told the Freelance he'd been stopped by police officers outside the court wanting to see his Press Card three times in the space of 20 minutes. I was asked for my Press Card and my "reason for being here" by a City Police officer immediately after I spoke to a passing Assange supporter.

Protesters and Assange supporters - whose numbers roughly equalled that of the press pack - were constantly moved on by police enforcing coronavirus regulations. Protests were restricted to socially distanced noise demos on the corner of Ludgate Hill, or individuals wandering through shouting slogans or holding placards. Anyone who was loud or tried to use a megaphone was surrounded by police. It wasn't clear whether these officers were trying to make arrests, they certainly seemed very reluctant to do so once they found themselves surrounded by a cordon of photographers and videographers recording them.

Crash barrier decorated with Assange tape

A barrier at the entrance to the Old Bailey

With the exception of the little celebration they were allowed when news came out that extradition had been denied, Assange supporters seemed to be observing better social distancing than the press scrum assembled by the entrance to the court and around the gazebo set up in the street where Assange's team were expected to make statements.