Exactly two years ago today, the 50-week jail sentence for a bail violation ended for WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, but he has yet to be released from prison. For the last two years, Assange has been detained at the maximum-security HMP Belmarsh in southeast London, solely at the behest of the United States government, which is continuing to seek his extradition.
Even when the U.S. extradition request was defeated earlier this year, Assange was not released from prison, with District Judge Vanessa Baraitser rejecting his bail application two days after ruling he should be discharged from detention.
The continued imprisonment has only further worsened Assange’s mental and physical health. Nearly two and a half years ago, in May 2019, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer found that Assange, who had spent the previous seven years without sunlight in the limited space of Ecuador’s Embassy in London—had suffered psychological torture.
In January 2021, Baraitser ruled that sending Assange, diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and suffering from clinical depression, to the United States would put him at an oppressively high risk of suicide. The U.S. government, which has indicted Assange for publishing on charges carrying 175 years in prison, immediately appealed the ruling to the UK’s High Court.
The High Court will hear the appeal, which was recently expanded to allow the U.S. to argue five lines of argument, on October 27-28 in London. The U.S. government is attempting to undermine the testimony of renowned psychiatrist Michael Kopelman, an effort which Assange’s partner Stella Moris described as “the latest move by the US government to try to game the British legal system.”
Furthermore, she writes,
“The U.S. government’s handling of the case exposes the underlying nature of the prosecution against Julian: aggressive tactics and subverting the rules so that Julian’s ability to defend himself is obstructed and undermined while he remains in prison for years and years, unconvicted, and held on spurious charges. The “process” is the punishment.”
The process is costing the British public as well. Declassified UK reports that FOIA-released documents show that the extradition case and Assange’s ongoing imprisonment have cost British taxpayers more than £300,000 (over $400,000).
John Rees, heading the Don’t Extradite Assange campaign in the UK, told Declassified,
“The human and financial cost of this inhuman treatment is entirely the fault of the US and UK governments. Justice delayed is itself injustice. This costly tragedy needs to end now and Julian Assange needs to be set free.”