WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is being driven to depression and despair by remaining locked up in the United Kingdom amid ongoing efforts to bring him to trial in the United States, his fiancee, Stella Moris, said on Saturday.
Ms Moris spoke to reporters outside London’s Belmarsh Prison, where Assange has been incarcerated for more than two years, after she and her two young children visited Assange for the first time in months.
“He was happy to see the children, but he is suffering there,” Ms. Moris said. “It is a dreary and horrible place.”
Assange, an Australian, was charged during the Trump administration with crimes related to WikiLeaks, the secrets-sharing website he ran, including charges of espionage and conspiracy to hack into computers.
The US Department of Justice requested the UK to extradite Assange after his arrest two years ago. That request was denied by a British judge in January, but the Biden administration appealed.
Ms. Moris said the Biden administration has shown “signs of wanting to project a compromise to the First Amendment” and that the “only logical step” would be for the president to drop the impeachment.
“Having Julian locked up and facing extradition degrades the UK and is a threat to press freedom in the UK. And they must look at this situation again and end it, because it has lasted too long and Julian’s life is at risk. And he could well lose his life. Not because of his depression, but because they are leading him to depression, deep depression and despair, ”said Ms. Moris.
“It’s not safe for him at all, he should be home with his family,” Moris said.
Assange, 49, founded WikiLeaks in 2006. His site infamously posted classified US military and diplomatic material during the Obama administration starting in 2010, for which he was later indicted.
Fearing the possibility of being extradited to the United States due to the leaks, Assange applied for asylum in Ecuador in 2011 and spent approximately seven years protected inside his embassy building in London. That residency ended when he was forcibly removed in April 2019 and the charges were announced in the United States. He has been imprisoned in Belmarsh ever since.
Ms. Moris, a 38-year-old lawyer, met Mr. Assange while living at the embassy and the couple later conceived two children there, currently four and two years old. His visit to the prison came nine years after the day Assange entered the embassy, he noted, the UK Press Association reported on Saturday. The rest of his comments were videotaped and shared online by The Independent, another British outlet.
“The situation is absolutely intolerable and grotesque, and it cannot continue,” Moris said of Assange’s mental health, the Press Association reported.
Assange faces the possibility of spending decades in a US prison if he is extradited and found guilty on all charges. He argues that he acted as a journalist and is innocent, but Washington contends otherwise.
Earlier, a group of two dozen British MPs wrote to President Biden last week when he was visiting Europe for the first time in office and asked him to drop his government’s case against Assange.
The White House did not respond when asked about that request. Press secretary Jen Psaki previously said that decisions on the Assange case will be made by the Justice Department, not the White House.