LONDON (Sputnik) – A psychiatrist who has interviewed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange several times told the UK court on Wednesday that suffering from Asperger’s syndrome increases the risk of the whistleblower committing suicide if extradited to the US.
Summoned by the defense to testify at the London Criminal Court about Assange’s mental health, doctor Quinton Deeley, a UK National Health Service psychiatrist who specializes in autism, said that Assange’s “obsessive rumination” and “rigidity of thought”, which are both symptoms of an autism spectrum disorder such as the Asperger’s syndrome, increases the likelihood of suicide.
The risk of the WikiLeaks founder taking his own life if extradited to the United States, where he would face 17 charges of espionage and one count of conspiring to commit computer crime amounting to an end sentence of 175 years in prison, had been raised by psychiatrist Michael Kopelman on Tuesday.
Upon taking the witness stand on Wednesday, Deeley confirmed his colleague’s testimony and said that the risk is influenced by Assange’s appraisal that he would spend the rest of his life in prison if extradited to the United States.
“It’s an outcome which he fears, which he dreads," the expert stressed.
During the cross-examination, the prosecutor representing the US Department of Justice tried to undermine the Asperger’s syndrome diagnosis by raising the issue that the whistleblower has written books and articles, and seemed to be at ease interacting with the public.
To prove his argument, the prosecutor played clips of a 2010 media event where Assange is seen talking and taking questions from the public.
Deely replied, however, that such evidence does not contradict the diagnosis, because in the case of Assange, he is in a “comfort zone” and “an expert on the material”.
The psychiatrists also stressed that his diagnosis is not just based on his telephone interview with Assange, but also through examining documents and speaking to friends and family.
“It is clear to my mind that Julian Assange is on the autistic spectrum,” Deeley told the court before leaving the witness stand.
The hearing to decide whether Assange should be sent to the United States resumed on September 7 at the London Central Criminal Court, after six months of delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The WikiLeaks founder, who has been locked up at the maximum-security prison of Belmarsh since his arrest at the Ecuadoran embassy in London in April 2019, is attending the trial from behind a glass panel, away from his defence team.
The hearing is expected to last another two weeks, and it is highly probable that the verdict will be appealed by the losing side.