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Julian Assange tests positive for COVID-19

WSWS, Thomas Scripps 10 Oct 22,

Julian Assange has contracted COVID-19. He received the test result Saturday, on the day several thousand people formed a human chain around Parliament in London to protest his persecution.

His wife, Stella, told the press, “I am obviously worried about him and the next few days will be crucial for his general health. He is now locked in his cell for 24 hours a day.” She said Assange had been feeling ill throughout the week and developed a fever and cough on Friday.

Assange’s infection confirms the repeated warnings of medical professionals and his legal team that his health and life are endangered by his wrongful imprisonment. It must lend renewed urgency to the demand for his immediate release.

Just months before the pandemic, over 100 doctors signed an open letter to the British government warning that Assange’s life was at risk while he was kept in HMP Belmarsh—the UK’s top-security prison. When COVID-19 began to spread rapidly throughout Britain, one of the lead signatories, Dr Stephen Frost, told the World Socialist Web Site, “Given what we know about this case, Mrs Assange is right to be concerned. Julian Assange, because he is immuno-compromised, following years of arbitrary detention first in the Ecuadorian Embassy and latterly in Belmarsh prison, is necessarily at higher risk of contracting any viral or bacterial infection, including infection by coronavirus.

“He should be released on bail immediately, so that he can access the health care which he urgently requires. The UK government is effectively playing Russian roulette with Julian Assange’s life.”

Another doctor, Lissa Johnson, explained, “As long ago as 2015 medical and human rights experts warned that anything more than a trivial illness could prove fatal for Julian Assange. His health is even more fragile now, and the coronavirus only renders those warnings more urgent and more dire.”

She added, “If Julian Assange does succumb to coronavirus or any other catastrophic illness in prison, it will not be an accident. It will be a foreseeable result of prolonged psychological torture and wilful medical neglect.”

…………………………. By the end of October 2020, Ministry of Justice figures showed that 1,529 inmates had been infected, 600 in the previous month alone. At least 32 prisoners had been killed by the virus.

In November, a wave of infections hit Belmarsh prison. Stella Assange revealed, “I’ve been told the number of people infected with COVID on Julian’s house block is 56, including staff.” This was on a block with fewer than 200 inmates.

Assange and the other inmates were placed under an indefinite lockdown, kept in their cells 24 hours a day. His lawyer Edward Fitzgerald had warned at his bail application of the “risk to his mental health and his human contact” posed by lockdown procedures. At Assange’s extradition hearing that autumn, his defence team presented extensive medical evidence of the damage done to his mental health and of the risk of suicide.

……………………………. Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, examined Assange with a medical team inside Belmarsh Prison in May 2019 and concluded that he showed symptoms of psychological torture. He commented on his illness, “Assange’s stroke is no surprise. As we warned after examining him, unless relieved of the constant pressure of isolation, arbitrariness and persecution, his health would enter a downward spiral endangering his life. [The] UK is literally torturing him to death

Melzer added, “As Assange clearly was not medically fit to attend his own trial through videolink, how can they even discuss whether he is fit to be exposed to a show trial in the US, a country that refuses to prosecute its torturers and war criminals but persecutes whistleblowers and journalists?”

Saturday’s protest was the largest yet organised in defence of Assange, attracting a broader range of ages and social backgrounds. It indicated the potential that exists for a mass, global campaign to secure the WikiLeaks founder’s freedom and safety. …………


October 11, 2022 - Posted by | civil liberties, health, UK

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