Release Julian Assange from Belmarsh Prison before COVID-19 spreads

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Priti Patel Home Office Secretary must release Julian Assange before the coronavirus spreads through the prison population.

Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture visited Julian Assange in prison last May and concluded, that Assange showed "all symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture, including extreme stress, chronic anxiety and intense psychological trauma." As a vulnerable prisoner whose health is already in jeopardy further isolation would be damaging in itself, let alone the threat that the virus breaks out inside the prison. The increased health risk means he should be released immediately.

There is a high possibility that the prisons will cancel all visits which means even harder access to his family, friends and lawyers. Releasing him and other vulnerable prisoners would reduce the risk of outbreak of the virus inside the prison. Julian Assange should be with his family during this time where he can prepare his defense against his extradition hearing.

Julian Assange has been charged by the Trump Administration under the Espionage Act for publishing truthful information in public interest and he could face up to 175 years in US prison. Julian had spent almost 7 years inside the Ecuadorian embassy where he seeked political asylum in fear of being persecuted for his journalistic activities. He has been held on remand in Belmarsh prison since last September after serving a 50-week sentence for breaching his bail conditions back in April 2012. This means the UK is now holding Julian only on the basis of the US’ extradition request.