THE US government will appeal against a British judge's decision to block the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to face trial for publishing military secrets.
Over the course of a two-day hearing in the UK High Court, the US will argue that District Judge Vanessa Baraitser's January ruling that Assange would be a serious suicide risk if extradited across the Atlantic should be overturned.
Assange, 50, is wanted in the US on allegations of a conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information following WikiLeaks’ publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents relating to US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Following several weeks of legal arguments heard in Assange’s initial extradition hearing, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled in January that Assange should not be sent to the US, citing a real risk of suicide.
The District Judge said that that while US prosecutors had met the legal requirements for Mr Assange to be extradited for trial, the US was incapable of preventing him from attempting to take his own life.
Regarding the likelihood of such an outcome, she said: "The overall impression is of a depressed and sometimes despairing man fearful for his future."
She said: "Faced with the conditions of near total isolation without the protective factors which limited his risk at HMP Belmarsh, I am satisfied the procedures described by the US will not prevent Mr Assange from finding a way to commit suicide and for this reason I have decided extradition would be oppressive by reason of mental harm and I order his discharge."
In August, the High Court was notified that the US Government will argue on appeal that, in order to meet the legal requirement for waiving prosecution or extradition, an individual must be “so ill” that they are unable to resist suicide.
Clair Dobbin QC, representing the US, argued: “It really requires a mental illness of a type that the ability to resist suicide has been lost.
“Part of the appeal will be that Mr Assange did not have a mental illness that came close to being of that nature and degree.”
Ms Dobbin also told the court that the “extraordinary lengths” Assange has undertaken to avoid extradition mean the need for scrutiny in this case is “substantially increased”.
This is no doubt referring to the seven years Assange spent held up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in order to avoid a number of legal woes, including rape charges levelled against him in Sweden and a possible extradition to the US for publishing classified information.
If the US appeal is successful, the case will be sent back to a lower court for a new ruling.
And whoever loses this ruling can request a final appeal to the UK's Supreme Court.
So, no matter what happens in the coming days, both parties are only at the beginning of what will likely be a long and bumpy legal road.