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    Supporters of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange block the traffic on Marylebone Road to protest against the extradition hearing of Julian Assange at Westminster Magistrates Court, in London. File photo

    Exclusive: 175 Years in Prison for Assange in US is Matter of Life and Death - WikiLeaks' Hrafnsson

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    The WikiLeaks founder may face up to 175 years in prison if he is extradited to the US. WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief Kristinn Hrafnsson says that Julian Assange's imprisonment was a deliberate move designed to prevent him from properly preparing his line of defence for the US extradition request hearing.

    Sputnik: You visited Assange on June 26. Could you tell me about his psychological condition, how does he feel?

    Kristinn Hrafnsson: I am happy to say that he is stabilised. For sure he is in a better condition than he was a few weeks ago. As it is known, he was previously brought to the health ward of the Belmarsh prison, and I was pleased to see now that his health has improved somehow. But he is still frail, and he is still suffering. And in fact, of course, that he is placed in this position of not being able to sufficiently prepare his defence.

    Of course, this is the worst thing that you could put a man through. And it is very deliberate that it’s done: that he gets this very hard sentence for a minor violation per se of breaching bail. The maximum sentence of most is totally unacceptable because it was known of course that he would then be in a position where he could not properly prepare for his defence on the extradition case.

    J. Assange in Prison Belmarsh in London
    © Ruptly . Ruptly
    J. Assange in Prison Belmarsh in London

    So you can imagine the anxiety that he is under. Total isolation, not having sufficient information, and he is having his life basically on the line. Because it is a matter of life and death. 175 years in prison in the US is a matter of life and death.

    Sputnik: The hearing on extradition to the US will be only in February 2020. Until that time, what is the WikiLeaks plan of action?

    Kristinn Hrafnsson: The formal hearing will be at the end of February. And we will be doing some incremental steps on the way to that. But in the meantime, we will, of course, continue the fight and continue to get people to accept the reality of the seriousness of this case. The precedent that it sets is not about Julian and WikiLeaks, it’s about the most serious attack on the press freedom in decades. Our main focus will be supporting, and me as the chief editor as well, we will continue, even though we have a limited capacity, publishing information on the WikiLeaks website.

    Sputnik: Should Assange apply to the European Court on Human Right in your opinion after the statement of the special rapporteur on torture?

    Kristinn Hrafnsson: I don’t know if it is possible to do that on that basis. You have to exhaust the legal remedies in the courts in your country before you actually do it, but I could expect to see that happen in the end after the UK takes it through all courts. But I am not too optimistic that he will be allowed free. So that means incarceration for years and years.

    Julian Assange supporters. London. 14.06.2019
    © Sputnik / Demond Cureton
    Julian Assange supporters. London. 14.06.2019

    Sputnik: Do media and WikiLeaks, in particular, have the right to publish some very sensitive secret information of a state, and where is the borderline between helping the society and keeping it aware, and actually disrupting the functioning of a state? 

    Kristinn Hrafnsson: A state is composed of many elements, and of course, the most important element of a state and a country are the people. And when you are a journalist, you are serving the people, not the powers. As journalists, we have our mandate from the general public at large and we have a duty to the general public to hold other powers, both corporate and state, accountable for their actions.

    That is what we do. When we evaluate information when it should be published or not, it goes to the same evaluation as every journalist does: is it newsworthy? If it is, it should be out. Calling it espionage, calling it disrupting is absurd. Of course, there is a line here. We would not, even if we receive the launching code of the intercontinental ballistic missiles of some nations, we would not publish it, of course not. We would not also publish personal information from health records per se.

    So there are limits, and those limits are respected in broad strokes. What should be in a public domain is the information that people need to have in order to evaluate their powers.

    Topic:
    WikiLeaks Founder Assange Arrested in London as Ecuador Withdraws Political Asylum (84)
    Tags:
    Belmarsh prison, United States, Britain, extradition, Kristinn Hrafnsson, Wikileaks, Julian Assange
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