More than 100 doctors on Monday called on Britain to end Julian Assange’s “torture” in prison pending his extradition to the US on espionage charges.
The 48-year-old Australian is facing 18 counts in the US — 17 of them under the Espionage Act — that could see him jailed for 175 years.
Washington’s extradition request is to start being heard on Monday next week at Woolwich Crown Court.
Assange is being held at the neighboring high-security Belmarsh Prison.
A group of 117 physicians and psychologists from 18 nations wrote in a letter to The Lancet medical journal that Assange was being subjected to “torture” in prison.
“We condemn the torture of Assange. We condemn the denial of his fundamental right to appropriate healthcare,” they wrote.
“Since doctors first began assessing Mr Assange in the Ecuadorian [sic] Embassy in 2015, expert medical opinion and doctors’ urgent recommendations have been consistently ignored,” they wrote.
Nils Melzer, the UN special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, has repeatedly warned that Assange has begun to exhibit signs of psychological torture.
Assange was briefly transferred from prison to a medical facility last year because of his frail health.
London’s Westminster Magistrates’ Court has also been forced to postpone a series of preliminary hearings because of Assange’s inability to make an appearance by video link.
“Our appeals are simple: We are calling upon governments to end the torture of Mr Assange and ensure his access to the best available healthcare, before it is too late,” the group of doctors wrote.
Assange’s seven-year hideout in the Ecuadoran embassy in London dramatically ended when British police dragged him out and arrested him on a US extradition request in April last year.
He was initially wanted in Sweden in connection with a rape investigation that has now been formally dropped.
Yet Assange had long suspected that he would eventually be sought by Washington for his decision to publish a trove of classified Pentagon documents detailing alleged US war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) posted a separate petition on Monday, accusing US President Donald Trump’s administration of acting in “retaliation for [Assange’s] facilitating major revelations in the international media about the way the United States conducted its wars.”
“The publication of these documents by media outlets was clearly in the public interest, and not an act of espionage. Julian Assange’s contribution to journalism is undeniable,” the online petition says.
It had been signed nearly 20,000 times by Monday afternoon.
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