Reporters Without Borders is calling for the release of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and the drop of the Espionage Act charges against him, two months before the hearing that will determine if he is extradited to the United States to face 18 charges, 17 of them under the Espionage Act.
Assange is currently imprisoned in the United Kingdom. If extradited, he will be charged under the Espionage Act and could face up to 175 years in prison. The Espionage Act prohibits the defendant from discussing their motivation in court to be factored into the verdict.
The court is only allowed to establish whether the crime was committed, regardless of motivation, since the Espionage Act was designed to deal with spies. This is why critics maintain that justice is impossible while the Espionage Act charges are in place.
“Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is alarmed that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s health has deteriorated in detention, and calls for his immediate release on humanitarian grounds. RSF condemns the continued targeting of Assange for his journalistic activities, which sets a dangerous precedent for press freedom,” the organization said in a statement published on December 24 2019.
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“Assange’s extradition hearing is due to begin at the Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London on 24 February. RSF is concerned by reports that Assange has had insufficient opportunity to prepare for this hearing, and that his lawyers do not have adequate access to him in prison. Both of these measures violate his fundamental rights.”
The UN also issued a report saying that “in addition to physical ailments”, Assange has been exposed to psychological torture. This is in line with an article published in The Guardian in January of 2018 written by doctors who visited Assange, pleading for him to be allowed to go to the hospital. “We examined Assange and he badly needs care, but he can’t get it. Prolonged uncertainty of indefinite detention inflicts profound psychological and physical trauma above and beyond the expected stressors of incarceration.”
Back in November, over 60 doctors signed an open letter to UK Home Secretary Priti Patel calling for urgent action to protect Assange, fearing he may die in prison.