LONDON—A British judge rejected a U.S. request to extradite Julian Assange on spying charges, saying the WikiLeaks founder would be at severe risk of suicide if sent to the U.S. to await trial in a high-security prison.
The decision marks a major setback in Washington’s pursuit of Mr. Assange for publishing secret documents relating to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. A lawyer for the U.S. government said it would appeal, setting the stage for another hearing in the coming months at the High Court in London. A bail application is scheduled to be heard Wednesday.
Delivering her ruling Monday after months of sporadic hearings because of the coronavirus pandemic, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser said Mr. Assange has already toyed with suicide, and the prospect of detention in isolation in the U.S. would likely result in a suicide attempt.
The judge said the harsh conditions under which he would likely be held in the U.S. prison system would exacerbate that risk. The court heard evidence from doctors who diagnosed Mr. Assange with depression and autism.
Under British extradition law, as well as European human-rights law that the U.K. is party to, a judge can block extradition on health grounds if it would result in unjust or oppressive treatment.