Doctors fear Assange ‘could die’ in UK jail

LONDON: More than 60 doctors wrote an open letter published on Monday saying they feared Julian Assange’s health was so bad that the WikiLeaks founder could die inside a top-security British jail.
The 48-year-old, who spent seven years holed up in Ecuador’s embassy in London before he was dragged out in April, is wanted in the United States to face 18 counts including conspiring to hack government computers and violating an espionage law. He could spend decades in prison if convicted.
In the letter to the British home secretary, Priti Patel, the doctors called for Assange to be moved from Belmarsh prison in southeast London to a university teaching hospital.
They based their assessment on “harrowing eyewitness accounts” of his Oct. 21 court appearance in London and a Nov. 1 report by Nils Melzer, the United Nations special rapporteur on torture.
Assange used WikiLeaks to publish classified military and diplomatic files in 2010 about US bombing campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq that proved highly embarrassing to the US government.
“We write this open letter, as medical doctors, to express our serious concerns about the physical and mental health of Julian Assange,” the doctors said in their 16-page open letter.
They said they had “concerns about Mr Assange’s fitness” to go through the full extradition hearing, which is set for February.
“Mr Assange requires urgent expert medical assessment of both his physical and psychological state of health,” the wrote.
“Any medical treatment indicated should be administered in a properly equipped and expertly staffed university teaching hospital (tertiary care).
“Were such urgent assessment and treatment not to take place, we have real concerns, on the evidence currently available, that Mr Assange could die in prison. The medical situation is thereby urgent. There is no time to lose.”
The doctors are from the United States, Australia, Britain, Sweden, Italy, Germany, Sri Lanka, Poland.–DT

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