Prison authorities have removed Julian Assange from solitary confinement in what has been described as a "huge" and "important" victory by Joseph Farrell, WikiLeaks's Ambassador and section editor. The "dramatic climb-down" by Belmarsh prison authorities followed intense pressure both from his lawyers and from a group of fellow prisoners who petitioned the governor "on three occasions insisting that the treatment of Assange was unjust and unfair".
"Assange was moved to a different prison wing, albeit one with only 40 inmates", Farell explains in a video statement released via the Don't Extradite Assange Campaign Twitter account, on the afternoon of 24 January 2020. This followed meetings between "prisoners, lawyers and the Belmarsh authorities", he added.
Assange, who founded the WikiLeaks transparency organisation, remains in Belmarsh maximum security prison as he challenges his potential extradition to the US. He faces charges relating to his role in publishing classified US documents which revealed alleged war crimes committed by US forces in Iraq. Assange's prosecution has been described as a dangerous assault on press freedom and democracy, by the likes of intellectual Noam Chomsky, whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, award winning journalists John Pilger and Chris Hedges, and the International Federation of Journalists.
Farrell says that there remain "serious concerns" regarding Assange's treatment in Belmarsh. "He is still being denied adequate access to his lawyers" and campaigners continue to insist that Assange should not be in jail at all, least of all in Belmarsh high security prison".
Prisoners' revolt and pressure from legal team and campaigners forces Belmarsh to move Assange out of solitary. WikiLeaks statement: pic.twitter.com/9Af9y3zC93— Don't Extradite Assange (@DEAcampaign) January 24, 2020
WikiLeaks's editor-in-chef Kristinn Hrafnsson announced on 23 January 2020, outside of Westminster Magistrates' Court that the US government is now claiming that constitutionally guaranteed protections for speech and the press don't apply to foreign journalists. A contention which has drawn severe criticism from journalists and constitutional lawyers, especially as the US government is seeking to apply its criminal laws extra-territorially against journalists and publishers. Assange is being kept in Belmarsh prison despite completing his 50 week sentence for absconding while on bail when he sought and obtained asylum from the Ecuadorian embassy.