Two Australian MPs who have visited Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in a high-security prison in the British capital, London, have described him as a “political prisoner,” expressing doubt that the whistleblower can receive a fair trial in the United States, where he is wanted for publishing classified US documents incriminating America in potential war crimes.
On Tuesday, Australian MPs Andrew Wilkie and George Christensen visited Assange in Belmarsh Prison in east London in an attempt to check on his well-being and lobby for his release.
They said they had been left in “absolutely no doubt” that Assange was a “political prisoner,” adding that his detention for engaging in “legitimate journalistic practices” was “madness” in the first place.
“The US is determined to extradite Assange to get even,” Wilkie argued at the gates of Belmarsh, adding that the solution to bringing Assange’s incarceration to an end “must be political.”
He called the fact that the UK was even considering having a court case to consider Assange’s extradition to the US rather than telling the administration of US President Donald Trump to “back off” was simply “madness.”
Assange was arrested in London in April last year after he was expelled from the Ecuadorian Embassy — where he had taken refuge for seven years — due to pressure from Washington. The activist is still fighting the US bid to be extradited from Britain.
The 48-year-old Australian citizen is currently serving a 50-week sentence in the United Kingdom before he will be extradited to the US on espionage charges related to his work.
Assange used WikiLeaks to publish secret documents online, including classified military and diplomatic files in 2010 about US bombing campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq that proved highly embarrassing to the US government.
He now faces a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison in the US if convicted of all of the charges brought against him there.
“It is completely and utterly unacceptable” for Assange to be facing espionage charges in the US for his role in revealing war crimes committed by the US, Wilkie said.
“I do not know that there is a way that Julian fairly and justly could ever be imprisoned, could ever be extradited,” said Christensen, adding that “He’s one of ours… He’s not a Brit, he’s not an American, and he should be returned home.”
The two Australian MPs further said it was evident that the WikiLeaks co-founder was under “a lot of pressure,” adding that there was no doubt he had suffered “prolonged exposure to psychological torture.”
Separately on Tuesday, a spokesman for Assange said that he was no longer being kept in solitary confinement and his health was improving.
“I saw him about 10 days ago; he has improved thanks to the pressure from his legal team, the general public, and amazingly, actually from other inmates in Belmarsh Prison to get him out of isolation,” Kristinn Hrafnsson said.
Earlier, a group of doctors representing 117 physicians and psychologists from 18 nations had called in a letter for an end to what they described as “the psychological torture and medical neglect of Julian Assange.”
His father, John Shipton, said Assange’s long confinement had damaged his health and said he feared that sending his son to the US would be akin to a “death sentence.”
“His situation is dire, he has had nine years of ceaseless psychological torture where false accusations are constantly being made,” he told reporters.
Assange’s supporters expressed concern about the state of his health after he appeared disoriented during a court hearing in October last year.
The mainstream media in the West have all but ignored the WikiLeaks founder’s story.
Assange’s full extradition hearings will begin on February 24 and will last for one week. The hearings will then pause until April 20 when they are expected to restart for a further three weeks.
We might also consider that none of Julian’s publishing ever took place inside the United States. The USA is trying to extradite him for publishing American secrets outside the USA, in a startling claim of worldwide jurisdiction. It is a prosecution that would if successful have a massive chilling effect on investigative journalists all over the globe. The fact that the mainstream media editors who gleefully republished Wikileaks’ revelations are not also in the dock reflects the fact that the security services are now very confident they have those outlets under control.
For these and many other reasons, Julian’s hearing next week is extremely important and I am going down to London today for ten days to cover it and to take part in associated events. I do hope everybody will make a real effort to join the protests.
With great reluctance, I am obliged to ask for donations to help this blog cover the Assange court case. We have rented a house close to the court and I will be trying to queue in the early hours of the morning to get one of the tiny number of seats available to the public at the hearing. The last year has seen constant travels down to London to support Julian in one way and another, and funds for the blog are running very low at the moment – very substantially less than 1% of readers subscribe (I am grateful to and humbled by those who do subscribe). I generally do not seek one off donations, as long term income is required to keep things on the road, but for the Assange – and Salmond – cases to be covered properly an exception is needed. With humility and reticence, I therefore ask if a few people could put some small donations forward using the standard payment details below.
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