Julian Assange asks father to move to UK during emotional prison visit
Julian Assange has asked his father to move to the UK during an emotional prison visit.
The Wikileaks founder, who is expected to move out of the medical ward in Belmarsh prison in the next day or so, shared a “moving” hug with his father John Shipton having not seen him since Christmas.
Mr Shipton was joined by Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei for the visit at the high security jail on Tuesday afternoon.
Assange was moved to a medical ward in the prison last month, and his supporters expressed “grave concerns” about his health.
But Mr Shipton told reporters outside Belmarsh that his son’s weight has “stabilised”, and that he expected to be moved back into the prison population in the next day or so.
Assange is serving a 50-week prison sentence after being dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy in April and jailed for a bail violation.
Mr Shipton, 74, said: “It was just very moving to see Julian, particularly in those circumstances, coming out of sick bay and having lost 10kg weight.”
He said he shared a hug with his son, adding: “It was a bit moving, not a hug that you want to end.”
Mr Shipton said Assange asked him to move from Melbourne in Australia to the UK.
“He just said could I move over to the UK and I said ‘yes, I’ll be here in August’,” he said, adding: “I’m delighted.”
He said of his son: “His movements have become fine and delicate, and he thinks through things carefully before he says them, so he doesn’t speak quickly like I am now, not that I speak so quickly.”
Asked if his son has lost some of his spark, he said: “No, I mean the fight’s still there.”
He added: “The spark is there. The fight is there. Just the fire’s a little banked.”
Mr Shipton was unable to talk about his son’s medical condition in any detail, saying only that he was moved to the sick bay due to weight loss.
Mr Shipton became emotional at one point while talking to the press and said Assange is “a gentle intellectual”.
Reflecting on what they discussed, he said: “We did talk about Julian being an icon of what the press is undergoing, and journalism is undergoing, free speech is undergoing and the ability to criticise government is undergoing all through the rest of the world.”
Ai Weiwei said Assange, who was recently visited at Belmarsh by Pamela Anderson, is “under psychological stress and pressure”, adding that he was “very happy” to see his visitors.
He said they discussed “the current political situation” and human rights conditions in the world today.
The artist said Assange’s mind is “clear”, but added: “I’m very concerned about him and I think especially the psychological condition.
“The man has been under such a pressure and such an unknown condition ahead of him so I am deeply worried.”
Asked if he thinks Assange remains optimistic about his future, the artist said: “No I don’t think so. I think he’s deeply worried.”
An investigation has been reopened into an allegation of rape in Sweden, which Assange has always denied.
He also faces an extradition request from the US on allegations of spying.
On Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that according to a US official the US government has formally submitted an extradition request to the UK for Assange.
A case management hearing for that matter is due to take place on Friday at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, and Assange is expected to appear via videolink from prison.
Assange sought political asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in 2012 after the leaks of hundreds of thousands of classified US diplomatic cables on his whistleblowing website.
He was charged in the US last month with receiving and publishing thousands of classified documents linked to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The US Justice Department indicted Assange on 18 counts that relate to his “alleged role in one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States”, it said.
He is accused of working with former US army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in “unlawfully obtaining and disclosing classified documents related to the national defence”, a statement said.