Over 100 doctors are urging the UK government to stop the “psychological torture” of Julian Assange, and send him to a hospital. It’s their fourth such letter since the journalist appeared in court.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange may die in a UK prison, having “effectively been tortured to death,” claim Doctors for Assange, a group of 117 doctors from 18 countries, in a recent letter published in The Lancet, a leading medical journal.
The letter says that Assange requires urgent medical care, and has been exposed to “prolonged psychological torture”. The group once again asks for him to be moved to a university teaching hospital for medical assessment and treatment.
WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson on the other hand has claimed that Assange’s health is improving and he is no longer being held in solitary confinement. Hrafnsson spoke to journalists ahead of next week’s court hearing on the US extradition request.
Assange’s health has been worrying his supporters for a while now.
Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, visited Assange in prison in May 2019, and reported that the journalist showed “all the symptoms typical of prolonged exposure to psychological torture”.
By that point, Assange had spent seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London living in a converted office under constant surveillance, before being detained in Belmarsh maximum security prison. Soon after Melzer’s visit, the public saw Assange at his case management hearing on October 21, 2019. “Doctors for Assange” says that he appeared “pale, underweight, aged, and limping, and he had visibly struggled to recall basic information, focus on his thoughts, or articulate his words”. By the end of the proceedings, the journalist told the judge “he had not understood what had happened in court”.
The hearing was held to decide whether the US can state its case to extradite Assange to the US. The WikiLeaks founder is wanted by Washington for “unlawfully obtaining and disclosing classified documents related to the national defense” with the help of former intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning. The Justice Department has indicted the journalist on 18 counts, which carry a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison.
Worried about the extradition proceedings and Assange’s medical needs, “Doctors for Assange” had previously written two open letters to the UK government in November 2019, to no reply. They had also asked the Australian government to intercede in the proceedings on his behalf, since he is an Australian citizen, but received no reply.