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Lawyer claims Julian Assange’s life at risk if final appeal fails

Julian Assange has spent four years in prison in London while he fights extradition to the US.

Julian Assange has spent four years in prison in London while he fights extradition to the US. Photo: AP

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s life “is at risk” if his final appeal against his extradition to the United States fails, his lawyer says.

Assange is wanted in the United States over an alleged conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information following the publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

He denies any wrongdoing.

The 52-year-old has spent the past four years in Belmarsh prison in London, where he has been since he was dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy in 2019, as he fights US attempts to extradite him.

“As a result of the 13 years he’s been effectively in prison or under house arrest or some form of restrictions on his liberty inside the Ecuadorian Embassy, he is really unwell,” Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson told ABC TV.

“Because of the treatment he has suffered, he suffers a major depressive illness. He has been diagnosed as being on the spectrum, and the medical evidence is if he was extradited to the United States those conditions would cause him to commit suicide.

“So his life is at risk and I am not exaggerating that.”

In a January 2021 ruling, then-district judge Vanessa Baraitser said Assange should not be sent to the US, citing a real and “oppressive” risk of suicide, while ruling against the 51-year-old on all other issues.

But US authorities subsequently brought a successful High Court challenge against this decision, paving the way for Assange’s extradition.

In June, Assange lost his appeal against a judge’s ruling over whether he should be extradited but he will make his final appeal in the UK High Court in February.

“We have our final appeal against his extradition coming up in February and if we fail, if we are not given permission to appeal, that is the end of the road in the UK and he will be extradited,” international human rights lawyer Robinson said.

“We are hoping that the European Court of Human Rights will step in.

“We will make an application to the European court to try to stop (his extradition) but that’s not guaranteed.”

There were several protests in the UK in 2023 in support of Assange, including from former British ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray, who said campaigners “will never stop fighting” for Assange’s freedom.

Assange’s wife Stella said in 2023 that “the stakes are very high”.

“They’re high on all sides, not just for Julian’s life and his freedom, but all the press freedoms and the freedom of speech rights that go with him,” she said.

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-AAP

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