The life of multiple award-winning journalist, Julian Assange, could be in jeopardy

I am writing regarding my serious concerns for the health of Julian Assange, founder and former editor in chief of Wikileaks.

On 29th May 2019, it was reported that he had been moved to the Belmarsh Prison medical ward. 

Almost seven weeks in isolation
This was after more than seven weeks, in the prison, mostly in isolation, after being seized from the Ecuadorian embassy on 11th April 2019 (where he sought and received political asylum in order to avoid extradition to the USA). 

He was arrested for jumping bail in 2012 and on 1st May sentenced to 50 weeks in the high security prison, a sentence described by UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention as ‘disproportionate’.

Swedish defence lawyer Per Samuelson visited Assange in British custody on Friday (24th May) and said that Assange’s health situation was such that it was not possible to conduct a normal conversation with him”.

“Sustained collective persecution”
The UN rapporteur on torture visited Julian Assange in HMP Belmarsh on 9th May with two medical experts. In his statement on Friday 31st May he said that Assange had been subjected to sustained collective persecution – including threatening statements and incitement to violence against him.

Mr Melzer told the BBC,

“I’ve worked in many areas of war in my life, in situations of violence, and I’ve talked to victims of persecution around the world and I’ve seen very serious atrocities.

“But [what] I have never seen is that a single person has been deliberately isolated and, I would say, persecuted – not prosecuted, but persecuted – by several democratic states in a concerted effort to eventually break his will.”

Melzer: “No chance of a fair trial”
He added that he believes Assange 

“Has a very strong case, and a very reasonable fear, that if he gets extradited to the Unites States he has no chance to get a fair trial with the level of public and official prejudice that exists there for him.”

Mr Melzer added that, because of his treatment, his health was at serious risk. He said,

“We could see that Assange showed all the symptoms that are typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture.” 

Assange, he said, needs access to a psychiatrist who is “not part of the prison service – someone he can fully trust” – to avoid his health deteriorating further.

Influence of press smears
In an interview he also spoke about how he himself had been influenced by press smears against Julian:

“When I was first approached by his defense team seeking protection from my mandate in December last year, I was reluctant to do so, because, me, too, I had been affected by this prejudice that I had absorbed through all these public, you know, narratives spread in the media over the years. 

“And only when I scratched the surface a little bit, I saw how little foundation there was to back this up and how much fabrication and manipulation there is in this case. So I encourage everybody to really look below the surface in this case.”

This article from Jonathon Cook looks at the legal ‘anomalies’ in Assange’s case.

US Extradition request 
In addition to ongoing health problems, symptoms of psychological torture and seven years in the Ecuadorian Embassy, Julian Assange now faces court cases for an extradition request from the USA on Espionage charges which carry a sentence of 175 years. 

Julian Assange’s next extradition hearing could be held at Belmarsh after he failed to appear via video-link today (Thursday 30th May) due to him being “not very well”, a court heard. 

Australian Assange did not appear at the five-minute hearing with regard to extradition on Thursday, where chief magistrate (Baroness) Emma Arbuthnot set a date of June 12 for the next hearing, and said: 

“It may be that that hearing will take place in Belmarsh.”

Ms Arbuthnot added: 

“It may be more convenient for everyone if it’s there.”

Act now if you’re also concerned
For those who are concerned about human rights and the freedom of the press it is urgent to act now. 

Julian Assange’s life is in jeopardy and as summarized by the UN rapporteur he should be freed. Some actions are listed below:

  • Write to your MP.  NB. I have received a response from Isle of Wight MP Bob Seely who wrote that he did not oppose Julian Assange’s extradition.
  • Write to the Home Secretary Sajid Javid at the Home Office
  • Write to Julian Assange at Belmarsh
  • Write to organisations encouraging them to speak up for Julian i.e. Amnesty International
  • Donate to the Wikileaks Defence Fund
  • Sign and donate to petitions in support of Julian
  • Get updates from independent news sources such as Media Lens, Jonathon Cook and 21st Century Wire
  • Donate to crowd funders that support Julian (here)
  • Put in prayer requests /pray for JulianCorrect misinformation when speaking to others
  • Buy items from the Wikileaks shop
  • Print posters (here)

Multiple award-winning journalist 
In the midst of much media misinformation it is important to remember that Julian Assange is a multiple award-winning journalist with more than 15 international recognitions of his work including ‘2010 Time Person of the Year’ (Reader’s Choice) and has been repeatedly nominated for a Nobel Peace prize.

In Julian Assange’s words:

“If wars can be started by lies, Peace can be started by truth.”

Image: newtown_grafitti under CC BY 2.0

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