Julian Assange ‘Too Ill’ To Appear For Court Hearing

Julian Assange has reportedly been moved to the hospital wing of the Belmarsh high security prison in London.

The move comes after his lawyers told a London court that he was too ill to appear via video link in a hearing to discuss his extradition to the United States.

Last week the US Justice Department slapped Assange with 17 new charges, accusing him of violating the Espionage Act after he received and unlawfully published the names of classified sources.

US charges

These new US charges are extremely serious for Assange, as he had originally been facing roughly five years in prison in the US on the original conspiracy to commit computer intrusion charge.

But now many of these new charges could each entail jail terms of five to 10 years, meaning Assange could face decades in prison if convicted.

And it seems following that news, Assange’s health has taken a turn for the worse.

On Thursday morning, Assange’s solicitor Gareth Peirce told a judge at Westminster magistrates court in London that Assange was too ill to appear by video link from prison, the Guardian newspaper reported.

The date for the next hearing was confirmed as 12 June, and could take place at Belmarsh prison itself.

Hospital Wing

WikiLeaks meanwhile was quoted by the Guardian newspaper as saying that the Australian had been moved to the hospital wing of Belmarsh after a “dramatic” loss of weight and deteriorating health.

“Mr Assange’s health had already significantly deteriorated after seven years inside the Ecuadorian embassy, under conditions that were incompatible with basic human rights,” WikiLeaks reportedly said in statement.

“During the seven weeks in Belmarsh his health has continued to deteriorate and he has dramatically lost weight. The decision of prison authorities to move him to the ward speaks for itself.”

Assange is currently serving a 50 week sentence at Belmarsh prison in London for breaching the Bail Act.

Assange had been arrested last month, when British police entered the Ecuadorian Embassy and dragged him out, after a seven year stalemate.

Swedish charges

Assange had had fled to the Ecuadorian Embassy in Knightsbridge in June 2012, but seven years later Ecuador withdrew its protection of Assange.

He took refuge in their embassy after he lost his final plea to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he had faced allegations of raping a woman and sexually molesting and coercing another in Stockholm in August 2010.

Those charges were dropped in 2015.

But now Swedish authorities are once again seeking his extradition, after they reopened an investigation into the 2010 rape allegation.

UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid will have to decide which country will take precedence in their requests for Assange, once he is released from British prison.

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Tom Jowitt @TJowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

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