“Please Save My Life”: Julian Assange In Prison

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Above photo: Julian Assange at the New Media Days Conference in 2009. Photo: Peter Erichsen

Cell Number 37, ‘Britain’s Guantanamo Bay’ – a single occupancy cell, furnished sparsely with a plastic chair, metal bed and steel toilet.

For over 150 days this has been Julian Assange’s residence, whether he likes it or not. And a judge has ruled today, he is to remain there even after his jail sentence is over. 

Swiftly after his asylum status was stripped by the Ecuadorian government, the British authorities sentenced Assange to fifty weeks in prison, for violating his bail. The maximum sentence being fifty-two weeks and the typical sentence being none and a fine.

With his arrest, Assange was moved to HMP Belmarsh, a maximum-security prison in South London. Belmarsh during the early millennium was known as ‘Britain’s Guantanamo Bay’ for its foreign detainees, held without trial.

When you visit the prison, you are immediately struck by its fortress-like exterior. With its water-stained concrete perimeter walls, enumerable CCTV cameras and floodlights.

In two exclusive interviews with the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), Julian Assange’s most notable visitors paint a harrowing picture of his current condition.

Professor Nils Melzer is the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on TortureEvery day, he receives around fifteen requests, to investigate individual cases of alleged torture.

“But I can only deal with maybe one or two”, Melzer tells the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF). But when in March, Assange’s lawyers reached out to his office for a second time, providing credible evidence for the claim of ill-treatment, Melzer thought “I owe it to my professional standards to at least look into this.”

A visibly fatigued and emaciated Assange greeted Melzer and his team during their visit on 9. May. It had been 28 days since Assange’s arrest. He was wearing a plain blue jumper and grey joggers.

Melzer and his team’s visit lasted for four hours. For three of those four hours Melzer and two medical experts, Professor Duarte Nuno Vieira from Portugal and Dr. Pau Perez-Sales from Spain conducted a medical assessment of Assange.

It followed the ‘Istanbul Protocol’. The protocol’s full name is the ‘Manual on Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.’

Melzer tells the ECPMF that at first, “after what this man [Assange] had gone through, I didn’t know what to expect.”

“From a medical perspective, both doctors concluded that his state of health was critical, and that it might deteriorate rapidly if he is not stabilized. And that’s exactly what happened.”

Two weeks after their visit, and 49 days into Assange’s detention, Assange was relocated to the hospital wing of Belmarsh. And a court hearing, on his extradition to the U.S., had to be postponed. It was deemed Assange was not medically fit to participate in the proceedings, even via video link.

What Assange is going through in prison is “psychological torture”, Melzer says emphatically. He came to this conclusion after his visit and published an official UN statement repeating this.

Melzer is not alone in his condemnations. Another visitor of Assange, John Pilger- a renowned investigative journalist and award-winning documentary film-maker- has similar things to say to the ECPMF, about his visits to Assange.

“Locked in a small cell in the hospital wing some 21 hours a day”, Assange was mostly “delighted to see his friends” when they visit, Pilger tells the ECPMF.

But “I was shocked”, Pilger says. “I found him struggling in more ways than one.” At Belmarsh, Assange has lost nearly 15 kilos of weight and “is precariously underweight.”

Pilger adds, Assange “is not only eating little, he is heavily medicated and denied basic rights. He is denied access to the gym — his only exercise is in a small bitumen yard with high walls surrounding it. He is denied access to the library.”

Despite being denied access to the library. Assange has been given one book to read, Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom. But in Pilger’s visits, Assange comments on “the bleak irony of reading a book about someone who spends 27 years in prison.”

Continuing to list what Assange is denied, Pilger adds: “He is not allowed to fraternise with other prisoners.”

“He is denied the tools with which to prepare his defence – certain documents and a computer. He is not able to call his American lawyer.”

Pilger is quick to point out the reason for Assange’s imprisonment: “Remember, he has committed the merest offence – skipping bail. He skipped bail so that he would not face extradition to the United States where a kangaroo court and a lifetime in prison awaits him.”

“His courage is extraordinary.”

This sentiment is shared by Professor Melzer.

Melzer tells the ECPMF, “the mainstream media informs us about Assange’s cat, his skateboard and his feces. But they do not give the same importance to hundreds of thousands of civilians murdered in Iraq, Libya and in Syria, to wars that have been intentionally orchestrated, and other crimes that have been exposed by WikiLeaks.

In my view, this complacency with governmental misconduct is the real scandal in this case. That’s the proverbial ‘elephant in the room’.”

Melzer says: “And no one sees this elephant, because the spotlight always on the personality and character of Assange, and that spotlight is so bright, you can’t see the elephant hiding right behind it.”

But he adds, “When the state institutions and their division of power are failing, it is the role and responsibility of the media, as the fourth estate, to inform and empower the people, to watch closely and expose the abuse of power”.

For the ECPMF, the centre warns that if Assange is extradited and charged under the Espionage Act, it would be a grave threat to press freedom. Henrik Kaufholz, Chair of the Executive Board of the ECPMF has said it would be a “disaster”.

And Kaufholz warns, “it may have implications for investigative journalism and press freedom everywhere. Regardless of whether one considers Assange a journalist or not, it bears the risk that it can be applied to journalists as a consequence.”

The British Government responds

A Government spokesperson has responded to the ECPMF, disagreeing with the allegations of Melzer and Pilger. “We strongly disagree with any suggestion that Mr Assange has experienced improper treatment in the UK. The allegation Mr Assange was subjected to torture is unfounded and wholly false.

“The UK is committed to upholding the rule of law, and ensuring that no one is ever above it. And that “[o]ur response will be published in due course.”

At the end of his visit, Melzer asked Assange whether he had anything further to say.

“‘Yes’, he said, ‘please save my life.’”

  • Frank Burton

    Assange is a hero, and it’s disgusting that the Australian Government isn’t doing anything to assist him. It just shows how beholden Australia is still is to it’s colonial masters the British and to the Americans. It also shows how afraid these powers are for the truth to come out and the lengths they go to in order to silence those that expose the truth.

  • jwreitter

    Assange should receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in exposing government wrongdoing including murder of innocent women and children. His treatment is a crime against humanity. He should be released and compensated for his losses and suffering. But how likely is that with an out-of-control military and fascistic governments catering to the power elites? The revolution is coming soon.

  • voza0db

    Modern Slaves have ZERO CONTROL of these sub-systems*, “justice” being one of them.

    So it seems clear that petitions, and singing in front of the court/prison and waving posters and son on won’t CHANGE what is about to happen to him.

    *Getting to know what you are and in what SYSTEM you live in is the first step!
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/513506d24b1d0aac0b5280046c8f2de8bad82a78ca9edbd0a19611b4e3ef7ae6.jpg

  • voza0db

    Are you talking about a REAL revolution like in the good old days…

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b94975dfc74267e1bdcac2ca1f757380d09553566d8f61c25622320658ad24c7.jpg

    even though it the end it didn’t CHANGE much because the Real Owners weren’t even known by the populace, or are you talking about present day dumb “revolutions”…
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/cf69fd300ee165ee4a2924e5c7faeb8f4ce242d8d8f1c032060dc17055045507.jpg

    **
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a13deefd6b789004673d139ef3ab0463a79c72198e4e4b488789453d60af5f75.jpg

    We’re the 99% and yet we are unwilling to CHANGE THE MAIN SYSTEM!

  • eight.of.wands

    Historically, sometimes the Haves begrudgingly allow us, the Have Nots, to taste a tiny crumb of peace and prosperity…
    Sometimes they don’t.

    And when they don’t, sometimes they begrudgingly allow us to rightfully object and seek justice…
    Sometimes they don’t.

    And when they don’t, sometimes they begrudgingly refrain from harassing, assaulting, arresting, abusing and killing us for simply requesting what belongs to us, which they have dishonestly taken for themselves…
    Sometimes they don’t.

    This may be one of those times… https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/19a544632be63a013e4e5d3b33133fd83c0326bbae61fa11e106cbef4dca5902.png

  • voza0db

    It seems you’re ready to assume the animal within you. No other solution seems

    feasible, at least for me!
    They (the SRF & Friends) started the next phase of disrespect in 2007/8 and so far they achieved what they wanted…
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/801697632e4ee2bca5a687595b2a835bdbcabf7192704b5b8eaa21aecd793f7b.jpg

    and it also seems that they are not satisfied…

  • Nylene13

    Heartbreaking.

    The British Government needs to stand up to Trump and co. and set Assange Free.

  • Nylene13

    Yes, where is the Australian Government?

  • Nylene13

    That is a good idea. How can we the people appeal to the Nobel Peace Prize committee for Assange?
    Clearly the whole point of this is to make We the People and Our Journalists afraid of Freedom of Speech. Thomas Jefferson would be ashamed of what our Government has become.

  • Werner Rhein

    What is the warmongering establishment afraid off?
    What can Assange still be doing to them?

    All Constitutions in the western world are written by the rich for the rich.
    If anyone is exposing this to much, he or she will end up like assange, or worse.

    But change is on the way, thanks to electronic media especially the young people are becoming more and more better informed, and rising up.

    Wars and military are a big part of global warming.

    War crimes, the once Assange exposed, are the power behind the warmongers, to show us this is what will be happening to you if you resist us.

    We need a 100 000 Assanges, have soldiers in all armies no concious anymore.

    Oh, did they ever have one.

  • Sabrina

    They are owned by us. (military)

  • injected

    First they came for TR, and you said nothing…

  • Tom Sherman

    laws should never be and frequently are not enforced rigidly. whether assange was in technical violation of this or that he served the public big time.

  • Bill Douglas

    What can we do? Can anyone tell us what we can do to support Julian???

  • Bill Douglas

    Yes, how can we do this?

  • Nylene13

    Web site says only ‘select people’ can nominate-such as University Professors, Members of Governments and so on.

    So we have to find someone who can.

    The Swedish Environmentalist Girl Greta-has been nominated for one.

  • Margaret Flowers

    A simple thing we can all do is to write Julian. See https://writejulian.com/ and join actions in your area or organize them to raise awareness. Talk to your members of Congress about it. Write letters to the editor. Talk to your local media about how terrible this is for journalists.

  • chetdude

    ‘A Government spokesperson has responded to the ECPMF … “We strongly disagree with any suggestion that Mr Assange has experienced improper treatment in the UK’

    Translation – Assange is getting completely f*cked over and tortured just like any other prisoner in our system we don’t like very much. In other words, this is Standard Operating Procedure in OUR Gulag…

  • chetdude

    The war mongering establishment is trying to make sure that there AREN’T 100,000 Julian Assanges emerging to mess with their plans by torturing the one they have their hooks into.

  • chetdude

    A) The hounding of Julian Assange began under Obama. His admin CAUSED the whole thing in its drive to get their hooks into him and put him away for life.
    B) The “British Government” is now run by Boris Johnson — the “English Trump” just “elected” by less than 1% of the Brits.
    C) Yes, it’s heartbreaking and it’s all about chilling dissent and stifling free speech.

  • chetdude

    Mairead Maguire, has today written to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee in
    Oslo to nominate Julian Assange, Editor-in-Chief of Wikileaks, for the
    2019 Nobel Peace Prize.

    worldbeyondwar dot org/mairead-maguire-nominates-julian-assange-for-nobel-peace-prize/

  • chetdude

    Already done:

    Mairead Maguire, has today written to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee in
    Oslo to nominate Julian Assange, Editor-in-Chief of Wikileaks, for the
    2019 Nobel Peace Prize.

    worldbeyondwar dot org/mairead-maguire-nominates-julian-assange-for-nobel-peace-prize/

  • chetdude

    Owned by the Forbes 400 Richest Americans(sic)…

    The military are merely Gangsters for Capitalism.
    ratical dot org/ratville/CAH/warisaracket.html

  • Sabrina

    We have a huge military presence in Australia. We were complicit in hands-on turning the boats of refugees away and back into the ocean.

  • rockie

    Of course she has! She is a pawn for the power elite.

  • Jo Hayward-haines

    Bravo! Now we can galvanize global support.

  • Nylene13

    That is Great News!
    Thanks chetdue.

    How are you doing?

    Protesting on High?

  • Nylene13

    It is about making an example of Assange.

    Scare the Journalists and We the People – from Freedom of the Press and Free Speech.

  • chetdude

    I’ll keep playing music till I drop!