The attorney for Julian Assange is warning that the Wikileaks founder could “commit suicide” if he loses his fight against extradition to the U.S.
The 52-year-old Assange has been awaiting an appeal of the extradition as he has been held in London’s high-security Belmarsh Prison since 2019, where he was taken after being holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for nearly seven years.
He faces 17 charges for publishing classified U.S. military documents and could be sentenced to up to 175 years in prison.
Today marks 1735 days Julian Assange has been held as a political prisoner in the UK
Deprived of liberty for more than 13 years he faces a 175 year sentence if extradited to the US #FreeAssange
— Defend Assange Campaign (@DefendAssange) January 10, 2024
“WikiLeaks exposed parts of [Hillary] Clinton’s presidential campaign, including potential running mates, when in 2016 it released 2,000 emails from her campaign manager John Podesta. U.S. intelligence later determined the messages were stolen by hackers working for the Russian government,” USA Today noted back in 2019.
Now, with a looming hearing scheduled for Feb. 20 and 21 in London on the extradition appeal, Assange’s lawyer voiced concerns over his health and that his life would be at risk if the court’s ruling is not favorable.
“As a result of the 13 years he’s been effectively in prison or under house arrest or some form of restrictions on his liberty inside the Ecuadorian Embassy he is really unwell,” Jennifer Robinson said.
“Because of the treatment he has suffered, he suffers a major depressive illness, he has been diagnosed as being on the [autism] spectrum, and the medical evidence is if he was extradited to the United States those conditions would cause him to commit suicide,” the international human rights lawyer added. “So his life is at risk and I am not exaggerating that.”
Call your representative today and urge them to sign Res. 934: “Regular journalistic activities are protected under the First Amendment, and that the United States ought to drop all charges against and attempts to extradite Julian Assange” #FreeAssangehttps://t.co/WQHqkce77X pic.twitter.com/8io2QyFPYo
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) January 10, 2024
“We have our final appeal against his extradition coming up in February and if we fail, if we are not given permission to appeal, that is the end of the road in the UK and he will be extradited,” Robinson said.
“We are hoping that the European Court of Human Rights will step in. We will make an application to the European court to try to stop [his extradition] but that’s not guaranteed,” she admitted.
When Assange was arrested by British police at the Ecuadorian Embassy in 2019, Hillary Clinton said he needed to “answer for what he has done.”
“I think it is clear from the indictment that came out it’s not about punishing journalism, it is about assisting the hacking of a military computer to steal information from the United States government, and look, I’ll wait and see what happens with the charges and how it proceeds, but he skipped bail in the UK,” the former secretary of state said at the time.
“The bottom line is he has to answer for what he has done, at least as it’s been charged,” she said at a New York speaking event.
Assange’s attorney noted the “supportive” work of the Australian government as a delegation of politicians traveled to the U.S. last year in hopes of influencing the Biden Justice Department to drop the case against Assange.
“We have been calling on the US to drop the case for years and the Australian government supports bringing Julian home as soon as possible and bringing the case to an end,” she said.
“To consider that he faces 175 years in a US prison, in a prison of our ally which purports to bring democracy to the world and have the best free speech protections in the world, it says a lot about democracy in this era,” Robinson added.
Fox News reported in December that the February hearings “will be held before two judges who will review an earlier High Court decision made by a single judge in June, when the Australian journalist was denied permission to appeal, according to a release from pro-Assange campaigners.”
“No publisher had been charged under the Espionage Act until Assange, and many press freedom groups have said his prosecution sets a dangerous precedent intended to criminalize journalism,” Fox News noted. “U.S. prosecutors and critics of Assange have argued WikiLeaks’ publication of classified material put the lives of U.S. allies at risk, but there is no evidence that publishing the documents put anyone in danger.”