Julian Assange’s father warns WikiLeaks’ publisher’s health is “declining rapidly” in Belmarsh Prison

By Oscar Grenfell
20 August 2019

In an interview on August 16 with 3CR, a Melbourne community radio station, Julian Assange’s father John Shipton stated that the WikiLeaks founder’s health is continuing to deteriorate in Britain’s maximum-security Belmarsh Prison.

Shipton revealed that Assange had received a visit from his brother Gabriel several days earlier. “Julian is emaciated and not in tip-top order or health,” Shipton said. “He is suffering anxiety. He is still in fighting spirits, but his well-being is declining rapidly.”

Shipton said there was a danger that “we will lose Julian” if action is not taken to end his incarceration. His warning followed a statement by world-renowned investigative journalist John Pilger on Twitter earlier this month, who wrote: “Do not forget Julian Assange. Or you will lose him. I saw him in Belmarsh prison and his health has deteriorated…”

Assange’s father outlined the draconian conditions in Belmarsh Prison, where Assange has been held since he was dragged from Ecuador’s London embassy by British police on April 11.

“Can you believe that Julian, who is a gentle, intellectual sort of fellow gets locked up in a maximum security prison?” he asked the interviewer, WikiLeaks supporter Jacob Grech.

Assange was dispatched to the facility despite being convicted only of a minor British bail offense, which stemmed from his successful claim for political asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in 2012.

Shipton explained that Assange was “in a cell 20 hours a day and has two social visits a month. Lawyers are allowed there other times. These social visits can be arbitrarily cancelled or reduced in time.”

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He related that when he travelled from Australia to London two-and-a-half months ago, “we waited and were told that we couldn’t come” into the prison for a pre-arranged visit with Assange.

“No reason was given,” Shipton said, except that “there were conflicting appointments made with prison doctors to come and see him. So, they use the visiting times to have his medical examiners examine him, which means that a social visit needs to be cancelled.”

Shipton, along with a WikiLeaks staff member and Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, returned the following week for another arranged visit. “We waited 46 minutes for Julian to arrive,” he said. The prison authorities claimed that they had “forgotten” to notify Assange of the visit, “so they had to go and find him and bring him down.”

This resulted in the two-hour visit, which Assange is entitled to, being reduced to just one hour. “To travel all the way from Australia to see Julian and to get only an hour, it seems cruel to me,” Shipton said.

Asked by Grech whether he thought this was the result of incompetence, or a deliberate attack on Assange’s rights, Shipton answered: “I’m told that often that is done with a well-known prisoner to assert authority over him and over his visitors.”

Published at https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2019/08/20