‘Assange has suffered psychological torture’

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has suffered psychological torture from a defamation campaign and should not be extradited to the U.S. where he would face a “politicised show trial”, a UN human rights investigator said on Friday.

Nils Melzer, the UN special rapporteur on torture who visited Mr. Assange in a high-security London prison on May 9 along with two medical experts, said that he found him agitated, under severe stress and unable to cope with his complex legal case.

“Our finding was that Mr. Assange shows all the symptoms of a person who has been exposed to psychological torture for a prolonged period of time. The psychiatrist who accompanied my mission said that his state of health was critical,” Mr. Melzer told Reuters in an interview in Geneva.

Too ill to appear

Mr. Assange was too ill on Thursday to appear via video link from a British prison in a hearing on an extradition request from the U.S., his lawyer Gareth Peirce said. He is in a health ward.

“Mr. Assange has been deliberately exposed, for a period of several years, to progressively severe forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the cumulative effects of which can only be described as psychological torture,” Mr. Melzer said in a statement. British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt, in a tweet posted within minutes of Mr. Melzer’s statement, said: “This is wrong. Assange chose to hide in the embassy and was always free to leave and face justice.”

“I am seriously, gravely concerned that if this man were to be extradited to the United States, he would be exposed to a politicised show trial and grave violations of his human rights,” Mr. Melzer said.

However, Mr. Melzer said he did not expect U.S. authorities to subject Mr. Assange to physical torture such as water-boarding. “I would much more expect him to be subjected to prolonged solitary confinement, to very harsh detention conditions and to a psychological environment which would break him eventually.”