UN Special Rapporteur on Torture warns Julian Assange could die in prison

 

In a June 1 interview with ABC Radio Adelaide, which you can find here, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer warned Julian Assange could die in prison if his persecution is not stopped immediately.

by Kevin Reed WSWS edited by O Society June 7, 2019

Last week, Melzer issued a scathing denunciation of Assange’s persecution, which you can find here, calling it “psychological torture.”

Reporter Philip Williams asked Melzer, “If your calls are ignored, do you fear he could actually die in prison?”

Melzer replied, “Absolutely, yes. That’s a fear I think is very real … the cumulative effects of that constant pressure, it will become unpredictable how this will end.

What we see is his health condition is currently deteriorating to the point he cannot even appear at a court hearing. This is not prosecution; this is persecution and it has to stop here and it has to stop now.”

The full radio interview with Melzer can heard here. WikiLeaks publisher and journalist Julian Assange was sentenced to 50 weeks in jail on May 1 by a British court in a vindictive show trial on fabricated charges of “skipping bail.” Following his eviction from the Ecuadorian embassy on April 11, where Assange had sought asylum and was effectively detained for seven years, he was arrested by British authorities and is now held in Her Majesty’s Prison Belmarsh in southeast London.

Melzer’s comment about Assange’s dire condition follows a statement he issued on May 31 demanding an immediate end to the “collective persecution” by the United States and its allies.

The UN torture expert visited Assange in Belmarsh on May 9 along with a medical doctor and psychologist in order to evaluate the condition of the heroic journalist. Melzer issued his statement just one week after the US Justice Department announced 17 counts on charges of violating the Espionage Act—which carry up to 170 years in prison if convicted—and renewed the demand that the WikiLeaks publisher be extradited to the US for prosecution.

Melzer warned that the nine-year “persistent and progressively severe abuse” of Assange by US, British and Ecuadorian authorities and the threat of his being extradited to the US would pose “a real risk of serious violations of his human rights, including his freedom of expression, his right to a fair trial and the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Speaking from Geneva during his interview with ABC Radio Adelaide, Melzer reiterated his warning that Assange cannot get a fair trial in the US “in light of the prevalent prejudice against him and the image of the public enemy that has been portrayed over there.”

In answering a question from Williams about the role of the Australian government in the unfolding attacks on Assange, Melzer said, “The Australian government has been the glaring absentee in this case from my perspective. I would have expected Australia to take steps to protect their national … to protect him from this excessive persecution that he is experiencing currently.”

Assange is the target of an international campaign of vilification, persecution and silencing due to WikiLeaks’ exposure to the people of the world both the war crimes American imperialism and its allies.

Melzer’s warning points to the urgent need to organize a struggle to defend Assange. We urge all of our readers to take up this fight.

Belmarsh Prison Inmate Provides Photos of Julian Assange, Says the ‘Internet is the One Thing They Can’t Control’

These photos feature Assange prior to his illness and being moved to the prison’s hospital wing last month. We have not been able to verify if Assange is aware of the existence of the photographs.

by Cassandra Fairbanks Gateway Pundit

The Gateway Pundit obtained exclusive testimony, as well as photos, from a fellow inmate of imprisoned WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange inside London’s highest security prison.

The inmate, who wishes to remain anonymous, sent multiple photos of Assange from inside Belmarsh maximum security prison and spoke to The Gateway Pundit about the WikiLeaks founder’s situation using a contraband phone he has inside.

Assange is imprisoned in the United Kingdom and faces eighteen charges under the Espionage Act in the United States for his publication of the Iraq and Afghan War Logs. If extradited and convicted, he could be face a maximum sentence of 175 years for the “crime” of publishing material that the US government did not want the population to know.

Along with the photos from inside the prison, the inmate pushed a fundraiser — causing supporters to worry that he was attempting to extort WikiLeaks or harm Assange by violating his privacy. The Gateway Pundit reached out to him to get his side of the story.

This reporter spoke to the inmate through a series of online messages and a phone call for multiple hours on Wednesday evening. At the beginning of the conversation I asked him if he was a prisoner or someone who works there — and if his motive was to extort money from the organization.

“I’m in prison right now,” he said, sending a photo from inside his cell. “Extort him for what reason? He exposed the biggest scandals in the world. Whose side do you think someone in prison would be on? The government who have us locked up in here or a fellow prisoner who actually doesn’t deserve to be here?”

The inmate said that he believes that Assange needs his story told properly and is attempting to do what he can to help. He said that he hoped publishing the photos would lead to more people reading about his case.

When asked if they were attempting to sell the photos, the inmate claimed that The Sun had offered him $10,000 for them, but he declined because the publication was not interested in telling Assange’s story properly. He said that he was only willing to share what he had to say, and the accompanying photos, with an outlet that supports his fellow inmate — and reiterated that his goal was simply to raise awareness of the truth of Assange’s case.

The Gateway Pundit was not asked for, nor did we provide, any compensation for the interview or permission to use the photos.

“I want his case to be understood fully, in detail,” the inmate told TGP. “I want people to know why exactly the USA wants him and what good he has done for the world.”

The prisoner said that while Assange can only spend £6 a week, he is in need of commissary money. Multiple people close to WikiLeaks asserted that this is false and he has more than enough in his account.

“That’s the story with the pictures,” he added. “He needs canteen money and a much better legal team.”

While some of the photos revealed his prison cell and the conditions, we have opted not to share those as they may violate his privacy. The photos reveal a thin blue mattress within a scarce and very small cell.

The photos of Assange himself reveal considerable weight loss since I last visited him in the Ecuadorian embassy in March.

After viewing photos of Assange prior to entering the prison, the inmate remarked “it’s true. Belmarsh has sucked the life out of him.”

Speaking generally about how Assange is viewed by the other inmates, the prisoner said that he is well liked among the prison population. “Everyone’s got a million questions for him — like ‘is the illuminati real?’ He’s probably heard that question a million times,” the inmate said, along with laughing emojis.

The prisoner said that there is a highly influential QC (a British lawyer) named James Scobey that prisoners who support WikiLeaks want to obtain for Assange’s case. “He is known in prison for winning a lot of cases, but doesn’t come cheap. We’ve inquired about his schedule for the next year and decided to launch this support campaign.”

Scobey was ranked by the UK Bar as a “leading individual” in 2019 and has placed in the UK’s Legal 500 multiple times. He is described on the Garden Court Chambers website as “a highly experienced leading counsel with a wealth of experience in defending cases of gravity across a broad spectrum of criminal work. He is instructed regularly in cases of murder, armed robbery, multi-handed conspiracies (involving the importation and supplying of Class A drugs) and fraud.”

We reached out to Mr. Scobey asking if he has been contacted about his services or the fundraiser. His office responded by saying that they had not heard anything as of yet.

“This case won’t be won in a courtroom,” the inmate said, asserting that it will be won with a positive campaign of public pressure showcasing who he is.

The inmate also said that security officers in the prison have been spreading rumors and gossip about the Assange rape case among the inmates, saying things like “you don’t know what he’s in here for” to stir the pot. Though he is concerned about the rumors, he does not believe the guards are trying to get Assange hurt — he believes they are simply uninformed about the Swedish investigation and believe the smears from the media.

The award-winning publisher is under investigation in Sweden for sex crimes, which he and many of his supporters believe was a setup to get him into the nation where he could be more easily extradited to the United States. The case involves consensual sex with two women, who later found out he had slept with both. One of the women had claimed that Assange had continued to have sex with her after a condom broke — a crime in Sweden — but the condom she provided to the police had no DNA from her, Assange or anyone else on it.

Swedish authorities attempted to drop the investigation in 2013, but was pressured to keep it open by the British government — further fueling speculation that it is a political hit job. A Crown Prosecution Service had even brazenly emailed Swedish prosecutors telling them, “Don’t you dare get cold feet!!!”

“He isn’t going to win this case through the law, he’s going to win it because there’s public outcry,” the prisoner explained. He noted that the mainstream media is controlled by the government and said that “the internet is the one thing they can’t control,” sounding a bit like Assange himself.

“The same people who run the mainstream newspapers are basically the ones running the USA, but they don’t own the internet,” he said.

On a bright note, the inmate explained that prison isn’t like the movies and he believes that Assange is safe from anyone who would want to harm him. “You can’t sneeze without permission,” he said.

The prisoner stated that Assange is still currently in the hospital wing of the prison. He also said that Assange very much appreciates all the letters he is receiving from supporters and that there was one day when nobody in the roughly 300 person unit received mail — except for him.

“All of the post was for Assange,” he said. “About 500 letters and it was all for him. It made him smile.”

Lawyers for Assange were unable to confirm or deny any of the claims.

While we cannot confirm the authenticity of any of the inmate’s statements or motives, the fact that the photos managed to get out of the highest security prison in the UK at all is stunning it itself.

Prior to his arrest, Assange spent nearly seven years in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, unable to receive proper medical treatment, and the lack of sunshine and fresh air taking a toll on his system. Doctors who visited him there wrote an article for the Guardian pleading for him to be allowed to go to the hospital for treatment, headlining their account “We examined Julian Assange, and he badly needs care — but he can’t get it.”

The doctors wrote, “experience tells us that the prolonged uncertainty of indefinite detention inflicts profound psychological and physical trauma above and beyond the expected stressors of incarceration. These can include severe anxiety, pathological levels of stress, dissociation, depression, suicidal thoughts, post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain, among others.”

The prisoner was most adamant that he wanted the world to read the UN’s report last week which found that Assange had been the victim of psychological torture.

Last week, the UN issued a scathing report in which Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture said that Assange has been exposed to psychological torture and warned that the award-winning publisher could face the death penalty if he is extradited to the United States.

Melzer visited Assange along with two medical experts who specialize in examining potential torture victims on May 9.

“I am particularly alarmed at the recent announcement by the US Department of Justice of 17 new charges against Mr. Assange under the Espionage Act, which currently carry up to 175 years in prison. This may well result in a life sentence without parole, or possibly even the death penalty, if further charges were to be added in the future,” Melzer continued.

Melzer also wrote that “there has been a relentless and unrestrained campaign of public mobbing, intimidation and defamation against Mr. Assange, not only in the United States, but also in the United Kingdom, Sweden and, more recently, Ecuador.”

“In the course of the past nine years, Mr. Assange has been exposed to persistent, progressively severe abuse ranging from systematic judicial persecution and arbitrary confinement in the Ecuadorian embassy, to his oppressive isolation, harassment and surveillance inside the embassy, and from deliberate collective ridicule, insults and humiliation, to open instigation of violence and even repeated calls for his assassination.”

Speaking about the visit that he and the medical professionals had with Assange earlier this month, Melzer said that it was obvious that his health had been seriously impacted by the “extremely hostile and arbitrary environment he has been exposed to for many years.”

“Most importantly, in addition to physical ailments, Mr. Assange showed all symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture, including extreme stress, chronic anxiety and intense psychological trauma,” the UN report said.

“The evidence is overwhelming and clear,” the findings continued “Mr. Assange has been deliberately exposed, for a period of several years, to progressively severe forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the cumulative effects of which can only be described as psychological torture.”

The report concluded with a condemnation of the actions of these governments in working to deliberately abuse him.

“In 20 years of work with victims of war, violence and political persecution I have never seen a group of democratic States ganging up to deliberately isolate, demonise and abuse a single individual for such a long time and with so little regard for human dignity and the rule of law,” Melzer said. “The collective persecution of Julian Assange must end here and now!”

In 2016, after 16 months of investigation, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) concluded that Assange is the victim of arbitrary detention. Not only did the group of lawyers and human rights professionals release an opinion that Assange should be released, they  also determined that he should be compensated by the governments of Sweden and the United Kingdom for “deprivation of liberty.”

Prior to the release of the UN report, the publisher’s mother, Christine Assange tweeted that the “UK Gov is unlawfully slowly killing my son!”

“They made him very ill by refusing him ANY access to life sustaining fresh air, exercise, sun/VitD or proper medical care for 6 YEARS of illegal Embassy detention,” she tweeted at the United Nations Twitter account. “Then against ALL medical advice threw him into a prison cell.”

WikiLeaks has not yet responded to the photos. We will update this story if a statement is made available.

 

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