09:22 GMT04 April 2020
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    The Lancet medical journal has now officially published, in its March 2020 edition, a letter from an international list of medical practitioners addressing the treatment of Julian Assange. This means that the letter can now be cited properly by other publications as awareness of the treatment of the WikiLeaks founder continues to grow.

    Calls for Julian Assange's "torture" and "medical neglect" to be brought to an end are now supported by 186 physicians from around the world, as of 11 March 2020. This is up from 117 in February 2020 and around 60 in November 2019. The demand is part of a letter published in the British medical journal the Lancet.

    ​"Holding Julian Assange gratuitously in a maximum security prison, with no UK charge or sentence in place, so that the United States can redefine journalism as espionage, has served as a vehicle by which to psychologically torture him, using isolation and denial of a host of human rights", explained Dr Lissa Johnson, one of the key physicians behind the letter.

    "His recent extradition hearing, also gratuitously conducted in a high security setting, reflected a continuation of that torture, by needlessly inflicting continued isolation behind bullet-proof glass, helplessness, surveillance, arbitrariness and debasement, denying him even the dignity and agency of sitting with, and communicating with, his lawyers", she added.

    During the first set of extradition hearings, held at Belmarsh Magistrates' Court (sitting at Woolwhich Crown Court), Judge Vanessa Baraitser was informed by Assange's legal team that prison authorities were mistreating their client. The court heard that in a single day the award-winning journalist and editor was handcuffed 11 times, placed in 5 different cells, strip searched twice and had his privileged legal papers confiscated from him. But Judge Baraitser refused to intervene in anyway with the prison officials. She also refused to permit Assange to leave the dock to sit with his lawyers, despite recognising that she had the legal authority to do so. Assange complained that he was unable to properly follow proceedings and direct his lawyers. He exhibits the symptoms of being psychologically tortured, according to three experts in torture.

    Johnson said that Doctors for Assange are gravely concerned for the publisher's life and health, "particularly in light of his brutal treatment at his extradition hearing". The clinical psychologist warned that every day that the extradition process goes on is, "another day of playing Russian roulette with his life".

    The letter, drafted by the group Doctors for Assange and demanding his treatment be brought to an end, has been officially published in the Lancet's March 2020 edition (after appearing once on its website in February). This means it is now officially part of the journal's publication and can be cited professionally by other writers and publications.

    ​Doctors 4 Assange continue to request that physicians from around the world review the material on their website and continue adding their name, field of expertise, and location to the growing list of signatories. The key sponsors of the letter include Dr Lissa Johnson, US presidential candidate Dr Gill Stein, and Dr Stephen Frost.

    The WikiLeaks founder faces up to 175 years in prison in the US if he is extradited and placed on trial there. All of the charges relate to his role in publishing classified US documents and the diplomatic cables which revealed war crimes and other criminality perpetrated by US-led forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and US-occupied Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. His substantive extradition hearings will restart on 18 May, with two administrative hearings due to be heard on 25 March and 7 April 2020.

    Related:

    Assange Hearing: Judge Rejects Plea to Intervene Against Mistreatment of Assange by Prison Officials
    'Outrage' Over Judge's Refusal To Allow Assange to Sit With His Lawyers During Extradition Hearings
    ‘Unbelievable Abuse’: Prison Torture of Assange Persists Alongside Extradition Hearing
    117 Physicians From 18 Countries Demand Assange's 'Torture' be Ended 'Before It's Too Late'
    UN Torture Expert Blasts British Government’s Failure to Address Treatment of Julian Assange
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    Wikileaks, Julian Assange, Australia, World, UK
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