Julian Assange's mother tells of 'unending pain' over his extradition

Julian Assange’s mother tells of her ‘unending, gut-wrenching pain’ over her son’s possible extradition to the US as she fears he will be imprisoned for the rest of his life

  • Christine Assange says she has ‘gut-wrenching pain’ over son’s extradition battle
  • He faces extradition to US over publication of classified military information
  • In an open letter, she said authorities ‘cruelly psychologically tortured’ her son
  • Fiancee previously accused UK of playing ‘executioner’ after prison mini-stroke

The mother of Julian Assange has spoken of the ‘unending, gut-wrenching pain’ she is suffering over her son’s possible extradition to the US.

Christine Assange also said the WikiLeaks founder is being ‘cruelly psychologically tortured’ by the authorities and set out her fears he will be jailed ‘for the rest of his life’.

Mr Assange, 50, is wanted in America over an alleged conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information following WikiLeaks’ publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars in 2010 and 2011.

His extradition moved a step closer when the US Government won a High Court bid to last week, overturning the decision of a judge who ruleD against his extradition on the basis of a real and ‘oppressive’ risk of suicide.

However, Mr Assange’s lawyers intend to take his case to the Supreme Court – the UK’s highest court.

In an open letter, his mother said: ‘Fifty years ago in giving birth for the first time as a young mother, I thought there could be no greater pain. But it was soon forgotten when I held my beautiful baby boy in my arms. I named him Julian.

‘I realise now that I was wrong. There is a greater pain. The unending, gut-wrenching pain of being the mother of a multi-award winning journalist who had the courage to publish the truth about high-level government crimes and corruption.

Christine Assange, mother of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, says he is being ‘cruelly psychologically tortured’ by the authorities

Julian Assange (pictured) is wanted in America over an alleged conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information

‘The pain of watching my son, who sought to publish important truths, being endlessly globally smeared.

‘The pain of watching my son, who risked his life to expose injustice, being fitted up and denied a fair legal process, over and over again.’

Mr Assange is facing a renewed push for his extradition after the High Court overturned the previous ruling against such a move last week.

However, his mother fears he will be ‘buried alive in extreme solitary confinement’.

She wrote: ‘The constant nightmare of him being extradited to the US and being buried alive in extreme solitary confinement for the rest of his life. The constant fear the CIA will carry out its plans to assassinate him.

‘The rush of sadness as I saw his frail, exhausted body slumping from a mini-stroke in the last hearing due to chronic stress.

‘Many people are also traumatised by seeing a vengeful superpower using its unlimited resources to bully and destroy a single defenceless individual.

‘I wish to thank all the caring, decent citizens globally protesting Julian’s brutal political persecution.

Wikileaks founder Mr Assange gestures as he speaks on the balcony of the Embassy of Ecuador in London in May 2017

Supporters of Julian Assange gather outside the Royal Courts of Justice on the day of the ruling on Friday

Julian Assange will NOT be held in a supermax jail if he’s extradited, US assures UK – so where will he be held? 

If Assange is extradited to the US he has now been assured that he will not got to a SuperMax jail such as ADX Florence in Colorado where Abu Hamza and other terrorists are held in solitary confinement.

A likely destination is Allenwood prison in Pennsylvania, a federal jail used before to house extradited prisoners.

These included Orpington’s Christopher Tappin, 65, pleaded guilty to selling missile batteries in a Texas court after a two year extradition battle in 2013.

Allenwood also holds a number of hackers, including Andrew Auernheimer, better known by his pseudonym weev, who became a well known cyber criminal who exposed flaws in the systems of big businesses and published data about Government officials – crimes similar to the ones Assange is accused of.

It also holds a number of notorious murderers including James Eagan Holmes, responsible for the 2012 Aurora shooting in which he killed 12 people and injured 70 others.

American officials have told the High Court in London that Assange could apply for a transfer to a jail in his native Australia, but his lawyers believe this could take up to ten years.

He could be sent to the country’s highest security prison, the Goulburn Correctional Centre in New South Wales, around two hours south-west of Sydney. It has the nickname ‘Hell’.

The male-only prison holds Australia’s most dangerous murderers, robbers and terrorists. 

If he is sent to a low security jail it could be the Lotus Glen Correctional Centre is northern Queensland, close to his home town of Townsville.

‘Please keep raising your voices to your politicians till it’s all they can hear. His life is in your hands.’

In January, district judge Vanessa Baraitser that Assange should not be sent to the US, in which she cited his risk of suicide. 

However, the US government appealed the ruling, insisting it had given diplomatic assurances that Assange would not face those strictest measures either pre-trial or post-conviction. It also suggested that Assange’s sentence will probably be between four and six years.  

After a two-day hearing, the Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, sitting with Lord Justice Holroyde, ruled in favour of the US on Friday.

They found the previous judge had based her decision on the risk of Assange being held in highly restrictive prison conditions if extradited.

However, the US authorities later gave assurances that Assange would not face those strictest measures either pre-trial or post-conviction unless he committed an act in the future that required them.

The case will now be sent to Priti Patel who will make the final decision on Assange’s extradition, though he is expected to appeal today’s ruling. 

His father Richard has previously said that they would take the legal battle all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary. 

Mr Assange has spent the past two years at HMP Belmarsh in London after almost a decade hiding within the Ecuadorian embassy in the capital.

Australia’s deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce supported Mrs Assange’s letter, saying he should be kept in the UK to be tried or returned to his home nation.  

Mr Assange’s fiancee has also previously accused UK authorities of playing the role of ‘executioner’ after he suffered a mini-stroke in prison. 

Stella Moris, 38, said he was left with a drooping right eyelid, memory problems and signs of neurological damage after the stroke in October.

Campaigners believe the incident was triggered by the stress of the ongoing High Court battle over his extradition.

Ms Moris, the mother of his two children, has been warning that her partner’s health has been getting worse. 

She said: ‘His incarceration is having a catastrophic effect on his health.

‘The US government plotted to kill him and have found a way to do so – get the UK state to play the role of executioner.’

Referring to the 2018 killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, she added: ‘This is a slow-motion Khashoggi playing out in the heart of London.

 ‘It is horrifying that Britain has let itself be instrumentalised by a foreign power to bring about travesty.’ 

South African-born lawyer Ms Morris fell in love with the controversial WikiLeaks founder five years ago while visiting him to work on a legal bid to halt the extraditions. The couple have been engaged since 2017.

Ms Morris and Julian had children Gabriel, three, and Max, one, while he was holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, keeping their relationship and family a secret from the outside world until last September. 

Timeline: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s long legal battle 

2006

Assange creates Wikileaks with a group of like-minded activists and IT experts to provide a secure way for whistleblowers to leak information. He quickly becomes its figurehead and a lightning rod for criticism.

2010

March: U.S. authorities allege Assange engaged in a conspiracy to hack a classified U.S. government computer with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning. 

July: Wikileaks starts releasing tens of thousands of top secrets documents, including a video of U.S. helicopter pilots gunning down 12 civilians in Baghdad in 2007.  What followed was the release of more than 90,000 classified US military files from the Afghan war and 400,000 from Iraq that included the names of informants. 

August: Two Swedish women claim that they each had consensual sex with Assange in separate instances when he was on a 10-day trip to Stockholm. They allege the sex became non-consensual when Assange refused to wear a condom.

First woman claims Assange was staying at her apartment in Stockholm when he ripped off her clothes. She told police that when she realized Assange was trying to have unprotected sex with her, she demanded he use a condom. She claims he ripped the condom before having sex.

Second Swedish woman claims she had sex with Assange at her apartment in Stockholm and she made him wear a condom. She alleges that she later woke up to find Assange having unprotected sex with her.

He was questioned by police in Stockholm and denied the allegations. Assange was granted permission by Swedish authorities to fly back to the U.K.  

November: A Swedish court ruled that the investigation should be reopened and Assange should be detained for questioning on suspicion of rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion. An international arrest warrant is issued by Swedish police through Interpol.

Wikileaks releases its cache of more than 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables.  

December: Assange presents himself to London police and appears at an extradition hearing where he is remanded in custody. Assange is granted conditional bail at the High Court in London after his supporters pay £240,000 in cash and sureties.

2011

February: A British judge rules Assange should be extradited to Sweden but Wikileaks found vows to fight the decision.

April:  A cache of classified U.S. military documents is released by Wikileaks, including intelligence assessments on nearly all of the 779 people who are detained at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.

November: Assange loses High Court appeal against the decision to extradite him.

2012

June: Assange enters the Ecuadorian embassy in London requesting political asylum. 

August: Assange is granted political asylum by Ecuador.

2013

June: Assange tells a group of journalists he will not leave the embassy even if sex charges against him are dropped out of fear he will be extradited to the U.S.

2015

August: Swedish prosecutors drop investigation into some of the sex allegations against Assange due to time restrictions. The investigation into suspected rape remains active.

2016

July: Wikileaks begins leaking emails U.S. Democratic Party officials favoring Hillary Clinton.

November: Assange is questioned over the sex allegation at the Ecuadorian Embassy in the presence of Sweden’s assistant prosecutor Ingrid Isgren and police inspector Cecilia Redell. The interview spans two days. 

2017

January: Barack Obama agrees to free whistleblower Chelsea Manning from prison. Her pending release prompts speculation Assange will end his self-imposed exile after Wikileaks tweeted he would agree to U.S. extradition.

April: Lenin Moreno becomes the new president of Ecuador who was known to want to improve diplomatic relations between his country and the U.S. 

May: An investigation into a sex allegation against Assange is suddenly dropped by Swedish prosecutors. 

2018

January: Ecuador confirms it has granted citizenship to Assange following his request. 

February: Assange is visited by Pamela Anderson and Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel.

March: The Ecuadorian Embassy suspends Assange’s internet access because he wasn’t complying with a promise he made the previous year to ‘not send messages which entailed interference in relation to other states’.

August: U.S. Senate committee asks to interview Assange as part of their investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election.

September: Assange steps down as editor of WikiLeaks.

October: Assange reveals he will launch legal action against the government of Ecuador, accusing it of violating his ‘fundamental rights and freedoms’.

November: U.S. Justice Department inadvertently names Assange in a court document that says he has been charged in secret. 

2019

January: Assange’s lawyers say they are taking action to make President Trump’s administration reveal charges ‘secretly filed’ against him.

April 6: WikiLeaks tweets that a high level Ecuadorian source has told them Assange will be expelled from the embassy within ‘hours or days’. But a senior Ecuadorian official says no decision has been made to remove him from the London building. 

April 11: Assange has his diplomatic asylum revoked by Ecuador and he is arrested by the Metropolitan Police; he is remanded in custody by a judge at Westminster Magistrates Court.

April 12: He is found guilty of breaching his bail terms.

May 1: Sentenced to 11 months in jail.

May 2: Court hearing takes place over Assange’s proposed extradition to the U.S. He tells a court he does not consent to the extradition and the case is adjourned until May 30.

May 13: Swedish prosecutors reopen rape case saying they still want to question Assange. 

June 3: Swedish court rules against detaining him in absentia, setting back the extradition case.

June 12 Home Secretary Sajid Javid signs an extradition request from the US.

June 13 A hearing sets out the date for Assange’s full extradition hearing – February next year.

November  Swedish prosecutors stop investigation into an allegation of rape against Mr Assange 

November 25 – Medics say without correct medical care Assange ‘could die’ in Belmarsh 

December 13 –  Hearing in London hears he is being blocked from seeing key evidence in case

December 19 – Appears at Westminster Magistrates Court via video-link where his lawyer claims US bid to extradite him is ‘political’. 

2020   

February 24 –Assange faces an extradition hearing at Woolwich Crown Court.

Assange’s representatives argue he cannot legally be handed to the US for ‘political offences’ because of a 2003 extradition treaty.

March 2 – Assange appears by video link at Westminster Magistrates Court, where he is refused bail amid the coronavirus crisis.

April 11 – Stella Moris, Assange’s partner, who gave birth to his two children while he was living inside the Ecuadorian embassy, issues a plea for his release amid fears for his health.

June 24 – The US Department of Justice issues an updated 18-count indictment, over Assange’s alleged role in ‘one of the largest compromises of classified information in the history of the United States’.

August 25 – Ms Moris visits her partner in Belmarsh prison for the first time in almost six months.

September 7 – Assange’s extradition hearings resume at the Old Bailey. They are expected to go on for up to four weeks.

October 1 – Judge Vanessa Baraitser adjourned the case at the Old Bailey until January 4. 

January 4 – Judge Baraitser strikes down US extradition bid. 

2021

October –  Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, sitting with Lord Justice Holroyde, hears two-day appeal from US. 

December 10 –  They rule in favour of the US and overturn decision not to extradite Assange. 

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