WikiLeaks founder was subjected to ‘particularly cruel’ treatment after US extradition to UK approved, says Stella Moris
Julian Assange was strip searched and transferred to a bare cell the same day British Home Secretary Priti Patel approved his extradition to the United States, the founder’s wife told reporters on Thursday. WikiLeaks, Stella Moris. The 50-year-old stayed there for a weekend as prison guards searched his own cell, she added.
“Prison is a constant humiliation, but what happened on Friday was particularly cruel,” Moris, who married Assange in March, said, adding that guards told their inmate that everything had been done. “for his own protection”.
According to Moris, the guards were looking for anything that a person could use to kill themselves. In the bare cell where Assange was placed, guards checked his status every hour until he was allowed back into his cell on Tuesday.
The WikiLeaks founder is currently in Belmarsh maximum security prison in south-east London, having been placed there in April 2019 as the UK decided to extradite him to the US. On June 17, Patel approved his transfer to the United States.
A British court initially refused the extradition request on the grounds that Assange might otherwise kill himself or face inhumane treatment in US custody. But Washington successfully appealed the decision, offering the UK assurances that the Australian’s rights would be upheld.
“The fact that he is imprisoned while this outrageous extradition is taking place is a grave injustice in itself. He has to deal with all of this, while preparing for a complex appeal to the High Court,” Morris said. Assange still has the right to appeal the decision within 14 days of June 17.
“This kind of thing never becomes more tolerable. Anyone would find that degrading. The mental strain on Julian is huge as he has to deal with what is essentially a death sentence,” Moris said, adding that extradition to the United States “to push him to commit suicide”.
It’s not something “regular discussion on mental health”, she insisted, adding that “we’re talking about driving a person to suicide.”
Moris, who has two children with Assange, has vowed to “use all available avenues” and “Every waking hour fighting for Julian until he’s free.” John Rees, a leading member of the campaign to release Assange from the authorities, also called Patel’s decision “illegal” and told supporters of the WikiLeaks founder “We must redouble our efforts to stop the extradition.”
The UK Home Office said last week that UK courts “did not find it would be oppressive, unfair or an abuse of process to extradite Mr. Assange”, adding that they also believed his rights would be respected.
Assange has been a target for the United States since 2010, when WikiLeaks released a trove of State Department cables and Pentagon documents detailing alleged war crimes committed by US forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has since been accused of attempting to hack into Pentagon computers and is charged under the US Espionage Act for WikiLeaks’ release of classified documents. If extradited to the United States, he faces up to 175 years behind bars.
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