Thursday, 30 May 2019 08:33

WikiLeaks warns Assange is in very poor health Featured

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Julian Assange being carried out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London on 11 April. Julian Assange being carried out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London on 11 April. Courtesy YouTube

WikiLeaks publisher and founder Julian Assange has been moved to health ward of Belmarsh Prison where he is incarcerated for jumping bail, with the whistleblower organisation expressing "grave concerns" about the state of his health.

In a statement, WikiLeaks said Assange's health had deteriorated during the seven years he spent inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London "under conditions that were incompatible with basic human rights".

It said the UN had twice found him to be arbitrarily detained and asked the UK to honour its commitments to international law and free him.

"During the seven weeks in Belmarsh, his health has continued to deteriorate and he has dramatically lost weight," the statement said. "The decision of prison authorities to move him to the health ward speaks for itself."

Assange was arrested by British police on 11 April and removed from the Ecuador embassy in London where he was taking refuge after the South American nation offered him asylum. This was withdrawn in April and Assange appeared in court shortly thereafter.

He was later sentenced to 50 weeks in jail for skipping bail at the time he fled into the Ecuador embassy; at that time, he was wanted in Sweden for questioning on rape allegations made against him by two women. Sweden has subsequently reopened the rape probe and sought his extradition; it had dropped the charge and cancelled the warrant in May 2017.

Soon after his arrest, the US sought his extradition to face charges of computer hacking and being involved in a compromise of classified information, a charge that carries a maximum sentence of five years.

Washington revealed its hand on 24 May when it hit Assange with 17 new charges under the US Espionage Act over his alleged role in leaking documents from former US intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in 2010.

WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson said: "Julian's case is of major historic significance. It will be remembered as the worst attack on press freedom in our time.

"The people need to voice their condemnation; it is theur politicians, their courts, their police and their prisons that are being abused in order to leave this black stain on our history. Please act now to avert this shame."

On Thursday UK time (Friday AEST) a formal hearing will take place in Westminster Court on the US extradition request.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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