By Albert Otti and Lennart Simonsson, dpa
HAVANA TIMES – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange shows “obvious” signs of the psychological torture inflicted on him due to years of confinement and persecution, a UN human rights expert reported on Friday.
Nils Melzer, the UN rapporteur on torture, visited Assange in his British prison on May 9 along with two medical experts who specialize in examining potential torture victims.
“It was obvious that Mr Assange’s health has been seriously affected by the extremely hostile and arbitrary environment he has been exposed to for many years,” Melzer said in a statement that was issued in Geneva.
In addition to physical ailments, “Assange showed all symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture, including extreme stress, chronic anxiety and intense psychological trauma.”
Over the past nine years, Assange was exposed to increasingly severe abuse ranging from judicial persecution, isolation and surveillance within the embassy, as well as public humiliation and repeated calls for his assassination, Melzer said, pointing at the United States, Britain, Sweden and Ecuador.
Democratic states were “ganging up” on Assange to “isolate, demonise and abuse” him, Melzer charged.
Undisclosed health reasons on Thursday prevented the 47-year-old Australian from taking part at an extradition hearing – via video-link – from Belmarsh Prison in London over a US request. His lawyer Gareth Peirce told judge Emma Arbuthnot that Assange was “not very well,” the Press Assocation reported.
Assange is currently in the prison’s health ward.
Kristinn Hrafnsson, editor of WikiLeaks, voiced concern over Assange’s health, saying that “during the seven weeks in Belmarsh his health has continued to deteriorate and he has dramatically lost weight.”
Last month, police dragged Assange out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he had been holed up since 2012. He is serving a 50-week sentence for skipping bail.
Washington has accused Assange of conspiring with former US military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to leak a trove of classified material in 2010.
In addition, US prosecutors last week brought a new 17-count indictment against Assange for the publication of classified information. These counts came in addition to previous charges over his interactions with Manning.
The Australian also faces a preliminary investigation in Sweden over an alleged rape in 2010.
A Swedish district court was Monday set to hear a request that Assange be detained in absentia on suspicion of rape.
“If the [Uppsala] court decides to detain him, I will issue a European Arrest Warrant concerning his surrender to Sweden,” deputy chief prosecutor Eva-Marie Persson said Friday.
The detention request is the first step in his possible extradition to Sweden.
Persson recently announced that Sweden was to re-open a preliminary rape investigation into Assange that was dropped in 2017.
A woman alleges she was raped by Assange during a 2010 visit to Sweden. Assange has denied the allegation.
The Uppsasla court this week rejected a request from Assange’s Swedish defence attorney, Per E Samuelson, to postpone the Swedish hearing.
Samuelson said in a document to the court that he was unable to conduct a proper conversation with Assange during a recent visit to Berlmarsh.