The Ecuadorian diplomat who gave Julian Assange political asylum reports from the extradition hearing against the WikiLeaks journalist, and explains why it is “the most important case against the freedom of expression in an entire generation.”
by Fidel Narváez, (translated by Ben Norton)
Part 9 - Assange faces a high risk of suicide in the U.S.
The conditions surrounding the physical and emotional health of Julian Assange were discussed in great detail in the court. This was the only area in which the prosecution presented its mere two witnesses.
It is important to remember that, soon after Assange was detained in Belmarsh prison, United Nations specialists specialists examined him and determined that he was suffering from several effects of psychological torture, a result of nearly a decade of persecution, made even worse by his last year of confinement in the Ecuadorian embassy, when the government of President Lenín Moreno subjected him to isolation and cruel harassment — something that I have personal knowledge of.
Doctor Michael Kopelman, a professor emeritus of neuropsychiatry at King’s College London, testified that Assange has been diagnosed with clinical depression and Asperger syndrome, for which he runs a high risk of suicide if he were extradited. Kopelman cited a study that found that suicide is nine times more likely in patients with Apserger’s.
Chelsea Manning attempted suicide in the same facilities where Assange would be held in pre-trial detention.
Dr. Kopelman found that Assange showed a “loss of sleep, loss of weight, a sense of pre-occupation and helplessness as a result of threats to his life, the concealment of a razor blade as a means to self-harm and obsessive ruminations on ways of killing himself.”
“I am as certain as a psychiatrist ever can be that, in the event of imminent extradition, Mr. Assange would indeed find a way to commit suicide,” Kopelman wrote.
His diagnosis was supported by Assange’s entire medial history since infancy, multiple interviews with family members and longstanding friends, and a surprising family history of suicide, possibily indicating a genetic disposition.
Assange’s depressive state was especially severe in December 2019 when he sent goodbye letters to family members and friends, wrote a will, and even confessed to a Catholic priest.
Doctor Quinton Deeley, a neuropsychiatry specialist in autism and professor at King’s College London, testified that Assange took an Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) test and was diagnosed as having “high-functioning autism” with “rigidity of thought,” a typical symptom of Asperger’s.
Assange “ruminates about prospective circumstances at length,” and it causes a “sense of horror,” Deeley said. He believes an “example is being made out of him,” which enormously increases the risk of suicide.
Doctor Sondra Crosby, a professor of medicine at Boston University and expert on the psychological impact of torture, visited Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy and Belmarsh prison. In 2018, Crosby published her professional opinion that the continued isolation of Assange was physically and mentally dangerous and a clear violation of his human right to health care.
In the embassy, Assange showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTDS) and psychological distress, an “acute psychological trauma, comparable to refugees fleeing war zones,” Crosby said. She added that he runs a high risk of suicide if he is extradited.
“He is in the same psychological state as someone who was being chased by a man with a knife and then locks themselves in a room and won’t come out,” Dr. Crosby explained. In October 2019, Assange “met all of the criteria for major depression… and he had suicidal thoughts every day,” she testified.