Reporters Without Borders Demands Julian Assange Be Released

Reporters Without Borders is demanding Julian Assange be released on humanitarian grounds. This as Assange’s health continues to deteriorate.

It seems like an eternity ago, but back in April, British authorities flooded the Ecuadorian embassy and arrested a non-resistant Julian Assange. This after a new president was elected in Ecuador and a major loan was given to the country by the US. Many say this is what sparked the government of Ecuador to revoke Assange’s political asylum.

While government supporting critics tried to argue that Assange is no journalist, he ultimately won yet another journalism award at roughly the same time as his arrest. After Assange was detained in solitary confinement, Assange was then hauled before a UK court where he was sentenced to 50 weeks in prison for skipping bail. Critics point out that serious offenders like murdered typically get far less. Some even point out that the sentence far exceeds the courts authority. The sentence was so severe, the United Nations called the sentence disproportiant.

As news of his arrest spread, the US decided to move quickly. After promising that they would not seek extradition, the US then moved to extradite Assange to the US. Many fear that if they are successful, Assange could ultimately face the death penalty for his role in exposing corruption through the exposure of top secret international trade agreements, war diaries, and diplomatic cables.

In less than a month, the US also unveiled an indictment against Assange. In it, the US filed 17 charges against Assange for, among other things, breaching the US Espionage Act. The move sparked condemnation from the EFF who said that this represents an attack on journalism.

Since then, things have quieted down to some degree. There have been many reports about how the health of Assange kept deteriorating after his detainment. Now, it seems that those health conditions are growing more and more critical by each passing week. The personal health of Assange has gotten so severe, Reporters Without Borders is speaking out. The international organization demanded that Assange be released on humanitarian grounds so he could seek proper medical treatment. From Reporters Without Borders:

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. RSF representatives plan to monitor the extradition hearing.

RSF is deeply concerned by the statement issued by UN Special Rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer on 1 November, in which he “expressed alarm at the continued deterioration of Julian Assange’s health since his arrest and detention earlier this year, saying his life was now at risk.” A group of more than 60 doctors also issued a similar warning in an open letter dated 25 November, expressing concern that Assange’s health was so bad he could die in prison without urgent medical care.

RSF has previously condemned the US government’s targeting of Assange for his journalistic-like activities, as classified documents leaked by WikiLeaks led to journalistic revelations that were in the public interest. Assange should not be prosecuted for being an intermediary between a whistleblower and media outlets. In the US, Assange faces a total of 18 charges, 17 of them under the Espionage Act, which has been increasingly used by the Trump administration to target reporting and whistleblowing on matters related to national security.

“We are alarmed by the current state of Julian Assange’s health, and call for his immediate release on humanitarian grounds, said RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire. Assange is being targeted by the US for his journalistic-like activities, which sets a dangerous precedent for press freedom. The journalistic community in the US and abroad is worried that these proceedings take the criminalization of national security journalism to a new level. This precedent could be used to prosecute journalists and publishers in the future for engaging in activities necessary for public interest investigative reporting. The US should cease its persecution of Assange and drop the charges under the Espionage Act without further delay.”

In November, doctors sent an open letter asking Assange to be moved from his prison cell to a hospital so he could obtain proper medical treatment back in November. From The Guardian:

More than 60 doctors have written an open letter saying they fear Julian Assange’s health is so bad that the WikiLeaks founder could die inside a top-security British jail.

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.

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”.

Up to now, there is no word on whether or not Assange is obtaining much-needed medical treatment.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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