Julian Assange’s wife has warned that the WikiLeaks founder “will die” if he is extradited to the United States ahead of his High Court appeal next week.
At a news conference in central London on Thursday morning, Stella Assange said her husband could be on a plane to the United States “within days.”
Assange is awaiting the results of his final appeal against extradition to the United States, where he faces espionage charges and up to 175 years in prison.
Mrs Assange, who met her husband while working as part of his legal team, said: “The situation is extremely serious. He could be on a plane within days.
‘His health is deteriorating, both mentally and physically. His life is in danger every day he remains in prison, and if he is extradited, he will die.
Julian Assange, who faces espionage charges and up to 175 years in prison, pictured with his wife Stella
‘But it’s not just about being extradited. Julian should never have been imprisoned to begin with.
The report came ahead of the 52-year-old’s final appeal which will be heard at the High Court on February 20 and 21.
Assange said the case was “politically motivated” and violates the extradition treaty between the United Kingdom and the United States which prohibits extradition for political reasons.
He said UK authorities would have rejected the “false extradition request” if it had been made by any country other than the United States, adding that he had learned “not to be optimistic” about his case.
The couple have two children together and married in March 2022 in Belmarsh.
Assange, who cried during the briefing, said her husband was “isolated” in prison and spends more than 22 hours a day in confinement.
“I am very concerned about how he is doing. Physically he has aged prematurely,” he added.
‘Julián will be put in a hole if he is extradited, there is no doubt about that. They will put him in a hole so deep and deep that I don’t think I will ever see him again.
Assange said: “The situation is extremely serious. I could be on a plane in a few days
Julian Assange speaks from the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy in 2017
If her appeal is unsuccessful, Assange said her husband would ask the European Court of Human Rights for a Rule 39 order to stop the extradition while it considers his case.
Assange’s campaign against extradition has the support of journalistic and human rights organizations around the world.
At the briefing at the Royal Over-Seas League, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson said the extradition would set a precedent that has “dark and serious implications for press freedom around the world.”
The Icelandic investigative journalist said: ‘We are seeing a critical attack on press freedom around the world. It is like a disease: an anti-press pandemic that stalks us and that has been taking shape over the years.
“And in that sense Julian Assange has been a canary in the coal mine.”
Rebecca Vincent, campaigns director for Reporters Without Borders, said there was a lot of “unhelpful noise” and “misconceptions” surrounding the case.
She said: ‘We defend Julian Assange for his contributions to journalism.
“We believe this case has many implications for journalism and press freedom around the world.”
Vincent said the US espionage law lacks a “public interest defense” and could apply to “anyone who publishes stories based on leaked documents.”
Supporters of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange protest outside Westminster Magistrates’ Court.
Stella Assange with Wikileaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson
Assange is wanted in the United States for an alleged conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defense information following the publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents related to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He denies any wrongdoing.
In a January 2021 ruling, then-District Judge Vanessa Baraitser said he should not be sent to the United States, citing a real and “oppressive” risk of suicide, although she ruled against him on all other issues.
US authorities successfully challenged this decision in the High Court, paving the way for extradition.
In June last year, Assange lost his appeal against a judge’s ruling on whether he should be extradited, but will make his final appeal to the High Court next week.