On January 24th, it was announced by Wikileaks Ambassador Joseph Farrell on Twitter that Julian Assange had been moved out of the Belmarsh “Healthcare” ward where he had been kept since late may, in conditions of virtual solitary confinement. Farrell said Julian was now back in the general prison population in a section with only forty other prisoners.
The movement of Julian out of the healthcare ward shows that prison authorities can be pressured however if we are to continue to fight for better conditions the broader campaign must have a clear idea of his current status. As Nils Melzer has made clear, the ongoing psychological stress that Julian is under is a threat to his life. Julian himself told Vaughan Smith on Christmas Eve over the phone that he was “slowly dying” in Belmarsh. It is therefore crucial that campaign are armed with the knowledge they need to fight for better conditions for Julian!
Wikileaks and the Courage Foundation are the organisations best placed to clarify these questions. If they don’t know the answers eg these facts are being hidden from them by authorities, then that should be public knowledge too. Since Julian Assange moved on the 24th January, the only update was from a security guard who told Yellow Vest protesters that Julian now had access to TV, mail and newspapers but this is an unconfirmed source.
Please share around these questions on social media as part of the collective effort to find out exactly what the UK authorities are currently subjecting Julian Assange too!
- What Category Prisoner is Julian?
Even though Belmarsh is a Category A maximum security prison, it also houses prisoners who are Category B ( medium level security) and Category c Prisoners, who are classified to be the lowest risk prisoners. The category of prisoner assigned to Julian would greatly affect his entitlements and rights within the prison.
2. How many hours a day is Julian now being held in his cell?
When Julian was being held on the “healthcare” ward he was at one stage being kept in his cell for up to 23 hours a day. This was why it was termed “virtual” solitary confinement. However, prison authorities were able to maintain the fiction that he wasn’t being held in solitary confinement as it wasn’t formally designated as such. The conditions at Belmarsh for many general population prisoners are very harsh and would constitute “effective” solitary confiment. Now Julian is off the healthcare” ward, how many hours a day is out of his cell?
3. Is Julian Assange able to send and receive mail?
Julian himself has stated that there have been long periods of time when Belmarsh has not given him his mail. A petition launched in late October demanding Julian be given his mail, coincided with a few weeks where numerous supporters around the world reported receiving replies from Julian from Belmarsh. However no-one has reported a letter from Julian since mid-November. Receiving and sending mail is a right guaranteed to all prisoners and is Julian’s only direct voice to the world and is therefore vitally important.
4. What are Julian Assange’s current visitation and phone rights?
Julian has been very restricted in his rights to not only have visits from his lawyers but also from friends and family. This must be impacting on his well being. Has this situation improved? Can he call his family in Australia and lawyers in the US yet?
5. What is Julian’s current access to lawyers both in the UK?
On January 13th Julian Assange’s legal team said they were on the “brink of a judicial review” due to his lack of access to his lawyers. Has his access improved at all?
6. What is the current status of Julian’s health?
Julian Assange was moved onto the “healthcare” ward in late May, apparently after suffering dramatic weight loss. Since then there has been conflicting information about Julian’s health. Concerns have been raised about Julian’s health based on his appearances in court and his apparent level of sedation at times. Doctors for Assange have advocated that Julian be immediately moved to a hospital setting outside the prison.
Even though the “healthcare” ward had been “weaponized” by prison authorities to keep him isolated, the move off the healthcare ward again raises the question, is Julian receiving adequate healthcare and is he still recovering or deteriorating in terms of his general health. Whilst respecting Julian’s privacy it is important that there be more clarity about Julian’s general condition that is occurring as a consequence of his unjust imprisonment.
If anyone feels that that there are other important questions that are not on this list, please feel free to comment below on this post.