We are deeply concerned for the life of journalist and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who has been in critical health and in extradition custody in the British high-security prison of Belmarsh for over half a year. We thusly express our support for the appeal made by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, for the immediate release of Julian Assange, on medical grounds and respective of the rule of law.
From 2012 to 2019, Julian Assange was granted political asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy to avoid the threat of extradition to the USA, but was then also systematically monitored, isolated and harassed there. The UN Special Rapporteur had visited the imprisoned WikiLeaks founder on the 9th of May 2019, together with a team of doctors in Belmarsh and subsequently reported that Assange showed "all the symptoms typical of victims of prolonged psychological torture".
Six months later, Melzer warned that the British government had ignored his urgent appeal and instead "showed only contempt for the rights and integrity of Mr. Assange". He continued to be isolated and monitored under unnecessarily stressful conditions, which are not justified for mere extradition custody and could even put his life in danger. Julian Assange, for example, would have to spend 22 to 23 hours a day alone in his cell without any valid reason. Any normal human contact with other prisoners is strictly forbidden and his preparation for trial is systematically undermined. In an open letter, more than 60 doctors called for Assange to be transferred to the university hospital for care, as his present state of health is now considered to be life-threatening.
Julian Assange is now imprisoned solely for the purpose of preventing his absconding in connection with the pending proceedings for extradition to the USA, where he is charged with "espionage" for revealing war crimes and is threatened with 175 years in solitary confinement.
It is clear that, under the current conditions of detention, Julian Assange can neither properly convalesce nor prepare for his extradition trial, which is scheduled to begin on February 24, 2020. Both constitute serious violations of fundamental human rights and rule of law principles, make a fair trial impossible and expose Julian Assange to great suffering and serious health risks.
We remind the German media that Assange is one of their own and that the defence of press freedom is a fundamental tenet of democracy.
Notwithstanding the allegations levelled against Assange, we urge the United Kingdom, on the human rights and medical grounds outlined above, to release Julian Assange from custody immediately so that he can recover under expert medical supervision and exercise his fundamental rights without hindrance.
We also call on the German Government to make representations to the British Government to this effect.
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