Julian Assange’s fiancée has said that he has suffered a stroke in prison due to the “constant chess game” and “battle after battle” over his future.
The WikiLeaks founder was in a “truly terrible state” at the time of a High Court battle over whether or not he should be extradited to the US, according to his partner Stella Moris.
Ms Moris said that Mr Assange had a stroke on 27 October on the first day of a hearing brought by the US in an attempt to extradite him over his WikiLeaks activity.
The US has charged him with 17 counts of espionage over an alleged conspiracy to obtain and disclose national defence information, following WikiLeaks’ publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked documents relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
Mr Assange has been held at HMP Belmarsh, a high-security men’s prison, since he was arrested and carried out of the Ecuadorian embassy in April 2019 by suited detectives after seeking asylum in the central London building for almost seven years.
His fiancée, with whom he has two children, tweeted: “Julian Assange suffered a stroke on the first day of the High Court appeal hearing on October 27th. He needs to be freed. Now.”
In an interview with the Mail On Sunday, Ms Moris said: “Julian is struggling and I fear this mini-stroke could be the precursor to a more major attack.
“It compounds our fears about his ability to survive, the longer this long legal battle goes on.
“It urgently needs to be resolved. Look at animals trapped in cages in a zoo. It cuts their life short. That’s what’s happening to Julian. The never-ending court cases are extremely stressful mentally.”
She added: “I believe this constant chess game, battle after battle, the extreme stress, is what caused Julian’s stroke on October 27… he was in a truly terrible state.
“His eyes were out of sync, his right eyelid would not close, his memory was blurry.”
The Independent contacted the Ministry of Justice but a spokesman said that they would not comment on individual cases.
Ms Moris’s warning over his health comes after the US authorities successfully challenged a High Court ruling on Friday that was in favour of Mr Assange.
In January, the then district judge Vanessa Baraitser ruled that Mr Assange should not be sent to the US, saying there is a real and “oppressive” risk of suicide.
But on Friday, Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett and Lord Justice Holroyde overruled the decision following a two-day hearing in October.
The senior High Court judges said that Ms Baraitser had based her decision over the risk to Mr Assange’s mental health and life on him being held in highly restrictive prison conditions if extradited.
However, the US authorities later made claims that Mr Assange would not face those strictest measures either pre-trial or post-conviction unless he committed an act in the future that required them.
Following the High Court ruling, Ms Moris said that Mr Assange’s lawyers intend to take his case to the Supreme Court, the UK’s highest court. Justices will, however, have to first decide whether to hear the case before an appeal is heard.
Ms Moris had called the High Court ruling “dangerous and misguided”, adding that the US assurances were “inherently unreliable”.
She also said: “Julian has remained in Belmarsh prison, and in fact he has been detained since 7 December 2010 in one form or another, 11 years. For how long can this go on?”
Ms Moris met her fiancé when she was a lawyer assigned to his team in 2010 that fought an order for him to be extradited to Sweden.
The couple’s relationship and family were revealed in April 2020, after it was kept secret from the public the whole time he was in the embassy in central London – due to the high-profile and sensitive nature of his case.
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