Alarming news from London suggests that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is “gravely ill” and has been admitted to the hospital wing of the high-security Belmarsh Prison.
Assange’s Swedish lawyer Per E. Samuelson has stated that “Assange is in such a bad shape that it is not possible to conduct a normal conversation with him”. Samuelson met with Assange for just under two hours on Friday at Belmarsh and was unable to engage in effective communication.
Due to the condition of his client, Samuelson requested a postponement to June 3 extradition hearing in Uppsala, Sweden. Yet, despite Assange’s condition, which is said to be “grave”, the request has been denied.
“I meant that it should be postponed until I had time to meet again and go through the issues in peace and quiet. I suggested no specific date and meant it should be postponed until everything was ready, but the district court has now decided that this won’t happen.”Per E. Samuelson
The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has already declared that Assange’s sentence for breaching his bail conditions in the United Kingdom is “disproportionate” and stated that they are “concerned” over the situation, stating that they are concerned that his “treatment appears to contravene the principles of necessity and proportionality envisaged by human rights standards.”
Beyond the United Nations, Julian Assange’s mother Christine has raised the alarm about the ongoing treatment of her son, notably the lack of access to medical care and access to face-to-face meetings with his lawyer as he attempts to mount a defence prior to the moves for extradition.
Assange is currently facing a whole life sentence should he be extradited to U.S. soil, being hit with 17 new charges by the United States this past week. The U.S. regime has accused the Wikileaks founder of breaching the Espionage Act with each of the listed charges carrying a potential ten-year jail term.
The new charges caused outrage amongst free press activists.
Supports of Assange have long contended that the U.S. was not finished with laying out charges against Assange and that the American establishment wished to make an example of the Wikileaks founder for having the temerity to challenge U.S. hegemony. Senior American figures have called for everything from extrajudicial killing to the death penalty for Assange.
The indictment against Assange is no longer about support or opposition to Julian Assange’s work. It is no longer about the Afghan and Iraq logs, nor about the DNC leak, this is now the most dangerous assault on the freedom of the press and free speech of our times. If Assange is allowed to be jailed by the American regime then nothing stops any other state bringing charges against publishers the world over. Today it is Assange, tomorrow it could be any publisher, journalist or even regular citizen who is critical of the U.S., Israel, Saudi Arabia or any other oppressive and criminal state.
The mainstream media must defend their own rights and understand very quickly that their kowtowing to the establishment is no longer an acceptable position in the face of outright authoritarianism. While we can only hope that the MSM realise the urgency and significance of the situation, the disgusting treatment of Assange thus far by outlets such as The Guardian suggests any real challenge to the establishment is unlikely. The onus now falls on the independent media, supporters across social media and press freedom and human rights activists across the world to oppose these charges and the potential for extradition to the fullest of their ability. The future of the media itself depends on it.
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