Julian Assange’s extradition would be like death sentence, says father

Extradition to the United States will be akin to a “death sentence” for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, his father has said.

John Shipton said his son had faced “ceaseless anxiety” as he fights against being sent to the US on charges over the leak of classified documents.

Speaking to the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme, he said: “The ceaseless anxiety that Julian’s been under for now 10 years – it has had a profoundly deleterious effect.

“I can’t speculate onto his state of mind, but I imagine that he will be really worried because being sent to the United States is a death sentence.”

His comments come as a group of 117 doctors and psychologists called for an end to what it calls “the psychological torture and medical neglect of Julian Assange”.

Assange, who is being held at high-security prison Belmarsh, is awaiting the outcome of an extradition request by the US, where he faces 18 charges, including conspiring to commit computer intrusion.

He is accused of working with former US army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to leak hundreds of thousands of classified documents.

A full extradition hearing is due to start on February 24.

Mr Shipton claimed the alleged charges against his son were “political” and dismissed allegations that Assange helped release the unredacted names of sensitive sources as “untrue”.

He predicted that the judge overseeing his son’s case would rule in favour of extradition, but that the decision would be appealed to the High Court.

John Shipton
John Shipton said his son faces ‘ceaseless anxiety’ (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

In a 1,200-word letter published in the medical journal The Lancet, the Doctors For Assange group expresses concern over Assange’s fitness for the upcoming legal proceedings.

The letter says that “Assange is in a dire state of health due to the effects of prolonged psychological torture in both the Ecuadorian embassy and Belmarsh Prison, where he has been arbitrarily detained according to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

“Should Assange die in a UK prison, as the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture (Nils Melzer) has warned, he will have effectively been tortured to death.”

Australian Assange was jailed for 50 weeks in May last year for breaching his bail conditions, after going into hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden over sex offence allegations, which he has always denied.

Swedish authorities later dropped the rape investigation.

He has been in custody since he was dramatically removed from the embassy building in April.

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