Doctors denounce the “torture” suffered by Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks

In a letter published in the journal “The Lancet”, a group of Australian defender doctors whose extradition the United States is demanding alerted him to his health.

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The situation in which WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange finds himself is akin to “torture”, said 216 doctors from 33 countries in a letter published on Thursday 25 June in the medical journal The Lancet.

It is not a research or diagnostic work: its authors did not examine Julian Assange directly and nothing is learned about the Australian’s medical situation. It is in fact an editorial by doctors belonging to a support group for Mr Assange, still imprisoned in a prison in south-west London pending the second part of his extradition trial, which is due hold in September. These doctors, then fewer in number, had already denounced the situation in November. Mr. Assange’s state of health is regularly the subject of alerts by his defense team, who intends to use this argument to block his extradition to the United States, where he faces 175 years of prison for publishing secret documents in 2010.

Torture techniques

Doctors in particular denounce the “continuous violations of Mr. Assange’s human and legal rights, at the hands of the judicial and prison authorities during the extradition procedure”. They echo the reproaches already formulated several times by the lawyers of the founder of WikiLeaks, in particular on his isolation in the high security prison of Belmarsh and the great difficulty that his lawyers meet to meet with him and prepare his defense. Thus, they recall that, during the first part of the extradition trial, in February, “he was confined to a bulletproof glass box from which it was impossible for him to follow the hearing, he was refused to talk to your lawyers. He was strip searched, handcuffed eleven times, moved to eleven different cells and some confidential defense documents were seized. ”

In addition, “Mr. Assange attended only one of the five [procedural] hearings that followed, and did so by videoconference. The latter was interrupted before the hearing was concluded. “He was subsequently unable to attend the other four hearings” because of the restrictions associated with the Covid-19 “and has not appeared during a hearing” neither by videoconference nor in person since March 25 “, Recall the doctors, who also note that the pandemic linked to the new coronavirus” has eliminated prison visits, preventing Mr. Assange from meeting his lawyers “.

Reinforcement of the charge

“Insulation and insufficient stimulation are major torture techniques, capable of triggering significant despair, disorientation, destabilization and the disintegration of crucial mental and psychological functions,” write doctors, of all specialties. They also denounce the refusal of the British justice to grant a conditional release in order to protect it from the pandemic of Covid-19, particularly virulent in prison environment. “Mr. Assange is at significant risk of contracting and succumbing to the coronavirus,” say the authors of the letter.

The publication of the text comes two days after the American justice decided to announce a reinforcement of the accusation which weighs on the Australian. The announcement constitutes “an escalation in tactics of psychological torture,” one of the letter’s co-authors, Lissa Johnson, said in a statement. “Continuing to detain Mr. Assange in these conditions amounts to torturing an editor and a journalist,” conclude the doctors.

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