Since April 2019, Julian Assange has been behind bars in the British prison of Belmarsh, in the east of London. Images of an emaciated man with shaggy hair, being forcibly removed by the British police from the Ecuadorian embassy where he had spent six years, will remain seared in the minds of many.
Initially placed in solitary confinement without any decision justifying it, Julian Assange is still in detention and will therefore begin his third round of hearings on Monday 7 September, after those of February and June. These next three weeks will be crucial for the founder of Wikileaks, a member of IFJ Australian affiliate MEAA and holder of the IFJ International Press Card.
Assange, who faces 175 years in prison if extradited to the US and convicted , is accused by the Americans of encouraging whistleblower Chelsea Manning in 2010 to break into the government's computer system to provide information containing clear evidence of war crimes, including the publication of the video Collateral murders . The video showed ,via an onboard camera on a US Apache helicopter in Iraq, the deliberate shooting on 12 July 2007 in Baghdad of civilians by the US military. At least 18 people were killed in the incident, including two journalists from the Reuters agency.
"Even though Assange was able to meet his relatives at the end of August, including his children, his health is still very worrying and no measures are being taken to improve it," said Anthony Bellanger, IFJ General Secretary, who is in regular contact with Assange's father, John Shipton. "The situation is also critical from a judicial point of view as British courts will have to rule on the extradition of Julien Assange to the US, opening the door to a life sentence for the founder of Wikileaks. The IFJ continues to work with freedom of expression groups and reminds members of the Council of Europe and the international community that the UK is holding without shame a man who has made public information of public interest.”