“I am dying. Slowly, but surely,” writes the Australian journalist and Wikileaks founder from his high-security prison in Belmarsh, UK.
In a text posted on social networks, Julian Assange, 53, the Australian journalist and whistleblower prosecuted in the United States for publishing over 700,000 confidential documents on US military and diplomatic activities, says he is exhausted and feels he is dying in prison. He is worried that press freedom and democracy will disappear with him.
War crimes denounced
“I’m slowly dying. I’m exhausted and I’ve lost a lot of weight. The isolation in Belmarsh is killing me. Contact with the outside world is rare. All because I’ve made war crimes public. To open society’s eyes and show what governments keep silent about. I’m dying, and I’m afraid that press freedom and democracy will die with me.”
The Wikileaks founder has been languishing for five years in the UK’s high-security Belmarsh prison, waiting to find out whether he will be handed over by London to the US, where he faces up to 175 years in prison for “espionage”.
Criminalizing investigative journalism
In addition to the immense injustice done to a man and his loved ones, the persecution of Julian Assange is also an attempt to criminalize investigative journalism. It is the right to inform and be informed that is under attack. The aim is to intimidate both the press – particularly journalists who might be tempted to draw inspiration from the work of WikiLeaks – and potential whistle-blowers.
In June 2022, the British government agreed to his extradition, but Julian Assange appealed against this decision. He was arrested and imprisoned in 2019 after spending seven years holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden in a rape investigation that was dismissed in 2019.
No political asylum in France
On March 9, 2023, the Robin des Bois association summoned the French government to appear before the Créteil court (94), with the aim of forcing it to do everything possible to enable whistleblower Julian Assange to apply for asylum in France from the UK, where he is being held. But the interim relief judge did not grant the request. The reason: “The circumstance of his deprivation of liberty does not allow an exception to be made to the rule”, says the judge’s order in substance, as French law requires “the presence of the requesting individual on national or European Union territory.” The lawyer for the Robin des Bois association disputes this.