Assange has been detained at London’s high-security Belmarsh Prison since April 2019, when he was arrested for skipping bail during a separate legal battle seven years earlier.

People celebrate after a judge ruled that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should not be extradited to the United States, outside the Old Bailey, the Central Criminal Court, in London, Britain, January 4, 2021.
People celebrate after a judge ruled that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should not be extradited to the United States, outside the Old Bailey, the Central Criminal Court, in London, Britain, January 4, 2021. (Reuters)

A British judge has denied bail to WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange, who has been jailed in Britain since 2019 as he fights extradition to the United States.

"I am satisfied that there are substantial grounds for believing that if Mr Assange is released today he would fail to surrender to court to face the appeal proceedings," Judge Vanessa Baraitser said. 

She said on Wednesday that Assange “has an incentive to abscond” and there is a good chance he would fail to return to court if freed.

US appeal for extradition

Baraitser on Monday rejected a request from US authorities for Assange to be sent across the Atlantic to face 18 criminal charges of breaking an espionage law and conspiring to hack government computers.

The charges relate to the release by WikiLeaks of hundreds of thousands of confidential US military records and diplomatic cables which US officials say put lives in danger.

Although Judge Vanessa Baraitser accepted the US legal arguments in the case, she said Assange's mental health issues meant he would be at risk of suicide if he were extradited.

The US Department of Justice says it will continue to seek his extradition and will appeal against her verdict.

READ MORE: Mexico offers political asylum to Julian Assange

'Hero' perception

Admirers hail Australian-born Assange as a hero for exposing what they describe as abuses of power by the United States. But detractors cast him as a dangerous figure who has undermined the security of the West, and dispute that he is a journalist.

WikiLeaks published hundreds of thousands of secret US diplomatic cables that laid bare often critical US appraisals of world leaders, from Russian President Vladimir Putin to members of the Saudi royal family.

Assange made international headlines in early 2010 when WikiLeaks published a classified US military video showing a 2007 attack by Apache helicopters that killed a dozen people in Baghdad, including two Reuters news staff.

READ MORE: How Julian Assange ended up where he is today

Source: TRTWorld and agencies