The partner of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has described his ongoing incarceration in one of Britain’s highest security prisons as “intolerable and grotesque”.
Stella Moris, 38, and the couple’s two young sons Gabriel, four, and Max, two, visited Assange in prison on Saturday morning (local time) for the first time in eight months.
Despite winning his long-running extradition battle against the US in January, Assange remains in HMP Belmarsh in south London pending the outcome of an appeal.
The 49-year-old Australian is still wanted in the US on an 18-count indictment, facing allegations of plotting to hack computers and conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information.
The prosecution followed WikiLeaks’ publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents in 2010 and 2011 relating to the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as diplomatic cables.
Ms Moris said she had last seen Assange in the flesh at his last court appearance in early January.
Judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled Assange should not be extradited to the US on mental health grounds due to his suicide risk.
But she refused to release him while US prosecutors appeal the decision, citing fears he would abscond.
Ms Moris’s visit to the prison coincides with the date Assange sought diplomatic protection from the Ecuadorian Embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden on sex offence charges which have since been dropped.
“He was happy to see the kids, but he’s suffering,” Ms Moris told the Press Association. “You know it’s a grim, horrible place.
“The situation is utterly intolerable and grotesque, and it can’t go on. The situation is just getting more and more oppressive.”
Pinning hopes on Biden
Ms Moris said she and Assange’s lawyers were hopeful there is less of an appetite to prosecute him in the US following Joe Biden’s election victory.
“The Biden administration is showing signs of wanting to project a commitment to the first amendment,” she said.
“The only logical step for [Biden] to take would be to drop this entire prosecution, and I hope that cooler heads prevail than under the Trump/Pompeo/Barr administration.”
Ms Moris said Britain’s decision to keep Assange behind bars “degrades” the country.
“Having Julian locked up and facing extradition degrades the UK, and it is a threat to press freedom in the UK,” she said.
“[British authorities] need to look at this situation afresh and bring it to an end, because it’s gone on for too long, and Julian’s life is at risk.
“They’re driving him to deep depression and into despair.”
When asked if she though he was being kept safe in prison, she said: “It’s not the right place for Julian at all, he shouldn’t be in prison at all, he shouldn’t be prosecuted at all, because he did the right thing: he published the truth.”