‘ Tor­tured’ As­sange in a ‘ down­ward spi­ral’: UN ex­pert

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS -

A UNITED Na­tions ad­viser has said he holds grave con­cerns for the health and wel­fare of jailed Aus­tralian Wik­iLeaks founder Ju­lian As­sange.

Nils Melzer, an in­de­pen­dent ex­pert ap­pointed by the Hu­man Rights Coun­cil to ex­am­ine and re­port to the UN on the theme of tor­ture, has sounded the alarm at the con­tin­ued de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of As­sange’s health, say­ing it was in “a down­ward spi­ral” that could end in death.

As­sange was sent to the high se­cu­rity HM Pri­son Bel­marsh in Eng­land on April 11 fol­low­ing his ar­rest at the Ecuadorean em­bassy in Lon­don, where he had lived in asy­lum for al­most seven years.

Last month, As­sange, 48, seemed dis­tracted and dis­ori­ented when he ap­peared be­fore a Lon­don court.

He is locked up as he awaits a US ex­tra­di­tion or­der over 17 counts of spy­ing and one count of com­puter hack­ing in re­la­tion to Wik­iLeaks’ re­lease of thou­sands of clas­si­fied Pen­tagon files on the Iraq and Afghanista­n wars.

“While the US gov­ern­ment per­se­cutes Mr As­sange for pub­lish­ing in­for­ma­tion about se­ri­ous hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions, in­clud­ing tor­ture and mur­der, the of­fi­cials re­spon­si­ble for these crimes con­tinue to en­joy im­punity,” said Mr Melzer.

The UN ad­viser vis­ited As­sange in pri­son with his med­i­cal team in May and re­ported then that he ex­hib­ited “symp­toms typ­i­cal for pro­longed ex­po­sure to psy­cho­log­i­cal tor­ture”.

Mr Melzer de­manded steps be taken im­me­di­ately for the “pro­tec­tion of (As­sange’s) health and dig­nity”.

“What we have seen from the UK gov­ern­ment is out­right con­tempt for Mr As­sange’s rights and in­tegrity,” he said.

Ju­lian As­sange.

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