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‘Julian Assange Is Not Superhuman – What Is Being Done to Him Is Unworthy of Any Democracy’

Stella Assange speaks to Byline Times about her fears for her husband if his extradition to the US is allowed following a forthcoming hearing in London

Photo: Imago/Alamy

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The wife of Julian Assange fears for the WikiLeaks founder’s life if he is extradited to the US as a hearing on charges of espionage looms.

Ahead of the hearing on 20 February, Assange’s wife, Stella Assange, told Byline Times of her fears that he “will be sent to the very country that plotted to assassinate him in the UK” and “once extradited, he would be placed in some form of solitary confinement, conditions that would drive any person to take their life”. 

She said: “There is no prospect for a fair trial because he will be put on trial for exercising the democratic duty of informing the public of state-sanctioned criminality. The threat to his life is clear and present. 

“Julian will be tried in the Eastern District of Virginia where the majority of jury pools either work or have relatives who work for government agencies, such as the FBI CIA NSA – the very agencies implicated in the plans to assassinate him.” 

The Australian journalist has been imprisoned at Belmarsh prison in south-east London since April 2019. Depending on the hearing’s outcome, he may be handed a 175-year sentence in the US if deported for exposing war crimes in the Afghan and Iraq Wars. 

Assange is accused of publishing material provided by US Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning revealing torture, assassinations, the list of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, and the US rules for air strikes.

Manning was pardoned by President Barack Obama and released in May 2017 after serving seven years in prison. The Obama administration decided not to pursue charges against Assange due to “the New York Times problem”. The advice was that there was no distinction between the publishing activities of WikiLeaks and that of the New York Times. Charges were then revived under President Donald Trump.


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Since then, the 52-year-old has been confined to a high-security block in Belmarsh, separated from his wife – who he married in 2022 – and his two young children.

Previously, Assange was living at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London after being granted asylum to avoid extradition to America. There was an order to extricate him to Sweden, where he faced sexual assault accusations, but he was never charged and the case has since been dropped. Assange’s legal team feared that he would be inwardly extradited to the US if he went to Sweden.

He was then arrested in April 2019 by UK police at the embassy.

Stella Assange is alarmed by the conditions her husband faces if deported to the United States.

She told Byline Times: “No family can prepare for such a thing. The conditions under which he would be held in the USA amount to torture. The newly appointed United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture recently put out a statement calling on the UK to release Julian and block extradition.

“Julian has been detained in one form or another since 2010. The US case carries a 175 years sentence. The message is: publish evidence of war crimes and corruption at the highest levels and you will be hounded and imprisoned.

“Julian is a strong man but he is not superhuman. What is being done to him is unworthy of any democracy.”

Assange has made an application to attend the hearing in person so he can communicate with his legal team but his wife said they have still not been informed if it will be granted.

His legal team argues that the case for extradition is politically motivated and has cited media reports of plans by the CIA to assassinate and kidnap Assange. It has also exposed the security firm previously employed to guard him as he sought refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy for spying on him on behalf of the CIA and the illegal removal of Assange’s legal files from the embassy.

The two-day hearing is likely to be the final chance for Assange to escape deportation to America, where he will be committed to a high-security prison awaiting trial. There are fears that the extradition treaty it has with the UK could allow the US to add or amend charges which may expose Julian Assange to the death penalty. 

“This is the last step in the UK courts,” his wife said. “It will determine if Julian can have his appeal heard in the UK or if it is the end of the road in this country. If appeal is denied, he will attempt to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights. There is, however, a great worry concerning the climate around the UK Government’s adherence to the ECtHR.”

Supporters are calling the event ‘Global Day X: It’s Now or Never’ and are urging people to protest outside the Royal Courts of Justice. Demonstrations by civil society organisations in different parts of the country and in other parts of the world are also planned.

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If it is successful, the US will have successfully used its 1917 Espionage Act against a journalist and publisher for the first time, prosecuted for obtaining or publishing US state secrets. Lawyers for Assange say that extradition would cross a new legal frontier and expose him to an unforeseeable extension of the criminal law.

Speaking from the European Parliament in Strasbourg, at the launch of an exhibition to highlight her husband’s status as the most awarded journalist on earth, Stella Assange added: “This case is an unprecedented abuse of the law to jail a journalist for committing journalism. Julian is being prosecuted for all the same reasons he has been awarded so many journalistic accolades. He is the most awarded journalist in history. The only way forward is for the charges to be dropped.”

The consequences for investigative journalism could be chilling and far-reaching, the WikiLeaks founder’s team argue. It believes it “will pose an existential threat to the free press as other countries will be able to argue that they too should be allowed to extradite journalists and publishers from the United Kingdom for breaking their censorship or secrecy laws”.

In the US, as a non-national, Assange would be ineligible to use the First Amendment (free speech) protection normally afforded to defendants.

“This is an unprecedented prosecution in relation to protected speech, which is a grave violation of freedom of speech under Article 10 of the ECHR and should stop the extradition,” his team has said.

“ECHR case law recognises the vital role that publishing state secrets can play in a democratic society and that criminal prosecution and conviction for such publications will deter the press from playing this ‘public watchdog’ role.”

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