WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange 'could die in prison', say 60 doctors - The Statesman

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange ‘could die in prison’, say 60 doctors

Julian Assange

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gesturing from the window of a prison van as he is driven into Southwark Crown Court in London, before being sentenced to 50 weeks in prison for breaching his bail conditions in 2012. (File Photo by Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP)

As whistleblower website WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange stays in top-security prison in United Kingdom, more than 60 doctors in an open letter have said that he could die in jail if not given proper medical treatment.

The 48-year-old Australian is fighting a US bid to extradite him from Britain on charges filed under the Espionage Act that could sentence him to 175 years in a US prison. Assange was also accused of rape by Swedish prosecutors, who on November 19 dropped their charges even though they found the plaintiff’s claim credible.

Assange remained in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012 after seeking refuge to avoid arrest after Sweden asked Britain to extradite Assange for questioning. However, on May 1, 2019, Assange was dramatically arrested from the embassy after the Swedes reopened the investigation and the Latin American government abruptly withdrew his asylum.


According to news agency AFP, in the letter to the British home secretary, Priti Patel, the doctors called for Assange to be moved from Belmarsh prison in southeast London to a university teaching hospital on Monday. They based their assessment on “harrowing eyewitness accounts” of his 21 October court appearance in London and a 1 November report by Nils Melzer, the United Nations special rapporteur on torture.

The independent UN rights expert said Assange’s “continued exposure to arbitrariness and abuse may soon end up costing his life”. Assange used WikiLeaks to publish classified military and diplomatic files in 2010 about US bombing campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq that proved highly embarrassing to the US government.

We write this open letter, as medical doctors, to express our serious concerns about the physical and mental health of Julian Assange,” the doctors said in their 16-page open letter. They said they had “concerns about Assange’s fitness” to go through the full extradition hearing, which is set for February.

“Assange requires urgent expert medical assessment of both his physical and psychological state of health,” they wrote. “Any medical treatment indicated should be administered in a properly equipped and expertly staffed university teaching hospital (tertiary care).

“Were such urgent assessment and treatment not to take place, we have real concerns, on the evidence currently available, that Assange could die in prison. The medical situation is thereby urgent. There is no time to lose.”

The doctors are from the United States, Australia, Britain, Sweden, Italy, Germany, Sri Lanka, Poland.