WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is being driven to depression and despair by remaining locked up in the U.K. amid ongoing efforts to put him on trial in the U.S., his fiancée, Stella Moris, said Saturday.
Ms. Moris spoke to reporters outside Belmarsh Prison in London, where Mr. Assange has been jailed for over two years, after she and their two young boys visited Mr. Assange for the first time in months.
“He was happy to see the kids, but he‘s suffering in there,” said Ms. Moris. “It’s a grim, horrible place.”
Mr. Assange, an Australian, was charged during the Trump administration with crimes related to WikiLeaks, the secret-spilling website he ran, including counts of espionage and conspiracy to hack computers.
The U.S. Department of Justice asked for the U.K. to extradite Mr. Assange following his arrest two years ago. That request was denied by a British judge in January but the Biden administration appealed.
Ms. Moris said the Biden administration has shown “signs of wanting to project a commitment to the First Amendment” and that the “only logical step” would be for the president to drop the prosecution.
“Having Julian locked up and facing extradition degrades the U.K. and it is a threat to press freedom in the U.K. And they need to look at this situation afresh and bring it to an end, because it’s gone on for too long and Julian‘s life is at risk. And he may well lose his life. Not because of his depression but because they’re driving him to depression, to deep depression and to despair,” said Ms. Moris.
“It’s not safe for him at all, he should be at home with his family,” Ms. Moris said.
Mr. Assange, 49, founded WikiLeaks in 2006. His site infamously published classified U.S. military and diplomatic material during the Obama administration starting in 2010 for which he was later charged.
Fearing the likelihood of being extradited to the U.S. over the leaks, Mr. Assange sought asylum from Ecuador in 2011 and spent roughly seven years shielded inside its embassy building in London. That residency ended when he was forcefully ejected in April 2019 and the U.S. charges were announced. He has remained imprisoned at Belmarsh ever since.
Ms. Moris, a 38-year-old lawyer, met Mr. Assange while he lived in the embassy and the couple later conceived two children there, currently ages four and two. Their prison visit came nine years to the day since Mr. Assange entered the embassy, she noted, the U.K.’s Press Association reported Saturday. The rest of her remarks were caught on video and shared online by The Independent, another British outlet.
“The situation is utterly intolerable and grotesque, and it can’t go on,” Mr. Moris said about Mr. Assange‘s mental health, the Press Association reported.
Mr. Assange faces the possibility of spending decades in a U.S. prison if extradited and convicted of all charges. He argues he acted as a journalist and is innocent but Washington maintains otherwise.
Previously, a group of two-dozen British parliamentarians wrote to President Biden last week as he visited Europe for the first time in office and asked him to drop his government’s case against Mr. Assange.
The White House did not reply when asked about that request. Press secretary Jen Psaki previously said decisions about the Assange case will be made by the Justice Department, not the White House.